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Mon, Sep 8th 2008, 09:49

Gold will never tarnish Clay

If Bryan Clay ever needs a lesson in humility, he just needs to look to son Jacob Ezra Clay, one of the world’s biggest Michael Phelps’ fans. He is mastering the butterfly to honor the wondrous Olympian and has finally consented to wearing goggles because, if Phelps does it, it must be cool.

Explaining to a 3-year-old the depth of what his father accomplished by winning the gold medal in the numbers-oriented grind of the 10-event decathlon at the Beijing Olympics sounds far less cool.

“I told him of everybody in the world — I say runners and generalize it for him,” recalled Sarah Clay, Bryan’s wife, “I told him of all the best runners from China, Mexico, and all the countries, Daddy was the best of all of them and got a gold medal.”

Jacob understood enough that when Clay called him from Beijing he quickly told him, “Daddy, I’m so glad you won the gold medal.” But Bryan and Sarah both know Jacob would have been just as pleased if his father won a race around the block.

That type of unconditional love and support, from his family and friends in Hawai’i (where Bryan was born and raised), Seattle (Sarah’s hometown) and California (where they now live) might be Clay’s biggest weapon.

“It’s really nice for me because you don’t feel that pressure,” Clay said. “I was telling Sarah the one thing that helped me so much this Olympics was having this overwhelming feeling of support from all my family members, friends, people from church. I was going to the Games knowing that no matter what I did — won gold, silver or no medal at all — when I got home nobody would think less of me. They might be disappointed or sad for me, but they wouldn’t be disappointed, necessarily, in me. Having that feeling, to not be weighed down by that pressure, was really nice.”

The 28-year-old Castle High graduate has never felt the pressure of the public eye European decathletes endure, or experienced the wealth they enjoy. Even now, planning an assault on the 2012 Games to add another medal to the silver and gold Clay has already collected, the Clays — down to 16-month-old Kate — expect to see little change in their lives.

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