Sunday, August 24, 2008

Clay Performs Without Flaw in Decathlon

No Olympic event is harder than the Decathlon, and no athlete better than the one who wins this collection of 10 disciplines. Bryan Clay has done it as one of the most drug-tested athletes in the competitions (which he volunteered for).

He dominated the events, winning every one of them. This is why I love sports.

From the Boston Globe:
King Gustav V of Sweden started all this in 1912. "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world," he told Jim Thorpe, after Thorpe had won the Olympic decathlon in Stockholm. "Thanks, King," the champ replied, not disagreeing.

Since then, 20 men had earned that title for a quadrennium and half of them had been Americans, among them Glenn Morris, Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner, and Dan O'Brien. Now comes Bryan Clay, the former Hawaiian hell-raiser turned role model father of two, to join the Olympic club with the most demanding initiation.

"I would love for the Wheaties box to happen," the 28-year-old Clay mused yesterday after he'd led wire-to-wire to outpoint Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, 8,791-8,551, inside the Bird's Nest to become the first US victor since O'Brien in 1996. "That would be the next dream. But it's a different time now than it was when Jenner and those guys competed."

The Big Man in America now is the World's Fastest Human - Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene, Justin Gatlin. Unless you're a track buff, you've probably never heard of Clay before now and he acknowledges that. "In most countries, they know who the decathlon champion is, but in the US it's been pushed to the back burner," Clay said. "Hopefully, this will be a spark to the fire."

On a night when the US team managed no other medals and had no entries in both sprint relay finals for the first time ever, at a Games where the entire men's track squad had produced only two golds, Clay was a skyrocket soaring into the city's sticky air. "Michael Phelps has got nothing on me," he declared. "Just kidding."

Phelps won eight gold medals competing in eight events. Clay won one gold medal competing in 10 events straddling two days - the 100, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400, 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500.

"It was brutal, it was just brutal," testified Clay after he'd essen tially jogged through the metric mile to claim the gold. "It probably was the hardest decathlon I've ever done in my life, through all the extremes and weather conditions." There was rain on Day 1, muggy heat on Day 2, and four hours sleep in between. "I got to bed at 1 o'clock last night," Clay said, "then got up at 5 o'clock this morning to start all over again."

But one thing never changed, from the moment Clay dashed across the line in the 100 until he trotted across in the 1,500. He was in the lead. "At all times, I knew Bryan was out of reach," said Leonel Suarez, whose bronze was Cuba's first medal in the event.
Read the whole article.

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