Bryan Clay took the lead after his first event and built on that lead for two days, scoring 8,791 to take the Olympic gold, improving on his silver from Athens. Bryan Clay is the Worlds Greatest Athlete, per the tradition, since 1912 bestowed on the winner of the decathlon.
In an interview the day after Bryan Clay won his Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, Bryan gave us his philosophy of achieving success in the ten event challenge for both heart and soul, " The winner of the decathlon is the athlete who makes the least mistakes." Well put, Bryan, but that gives little indication of what this amazing athlete did in winning the Beijing Decathlon, which many observers have noted as being the toughest conditions in any major decathlon. Fourteen of the 43 athletes entered did not finish.
The decathlon is draped in history and Olympic tradition. The United States has had a long tradition in the event and the spirit of the late Bob Mathias, as well as names like Rafer Johnson, Milt Campbell, Bruce Jenner, Bill Toomey and Dan O'Brien, it has been a decade since a US athlete won the gold medal in an Olympic event.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist and the world record holder is Czech giant Roman Sebrle. Roman is a giant of a man and his 9026 point world record is also such a gigantic score.
A decathlete is a master of ten events, well nine, as most hate the 1,500 meters. Like the marathoner praying the race ended at 24 miles, more than one decathlete has wished the ten eventer ended at nine, but that is part of the drama of human performance and the mystical respect of the the man, who will, for the next four years, rate as the "World's greatest athlete" .
Bryan Clay is not a genetic freak, he is a talented athlete who has worked his butt off. Raised in Hawaii, Bryan qualified for the state meet in the 100 meters his frosh year, his sophomore year, he qualified in the 100 meters as well. His junior year, Bryan qualified in the 100, 200, 110 meter hurdles, Long jump, high jump! In his senior year, Bryan qualified in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 110 meter high hurdles, and the long jump. He won all four events for Castle High his senior year!
Bryan's silver medal in 2004 in Athens gave him a sense of his future. In 2005, in cold conditions of Helsinki, Bryan Clay won the world championships! Injuries followed. In 2007, while Bryan won the US champs, he did not finish the Osaka World Championships. He had something to prove for 2008.
"The Olympic Trials took alot out of me, " noted Bryan Clay. Head coach Kevin Reid told this writer in an earlier conversation that it had taken nearly three weeks for Bryan to get back into complete training after Eugene.
" I do not believe in favorites in the decathlon, " Bryan told this writer, " It is the person who makes the least mistakes who wins the decathlon." This time, that person was Bryan Clay.
Bryan started off with a 10.44 for the 100 meters, taking 989 points. " I would have liked to run a bit faster, but this was pretty good" observed Clay later. His long jump, where he jumped 7.76 meters continued Clay's lead, with 1005 points and 1,994 for two events.
"My best event of the decathlon was the shot put, where I scored a personal best!" observed Clay. Clay's shot put of 16.27 meters gave him his second win all over of the three events, giving him 865 points for a total of 2,862.
If the shot was his best event, then the high jump was his low point in this competition, " I felt the worse after my poor performance in the high jump, " said Clay afterwards. 2004 champion Roman Sebrle scored the win in this event with 2.11m, for 908 points, with Clay having the eleventh best performance, with his 1.99m jump and a score of 794 for 3656. His lead was down to 146 points ( Alexander Pogorelov of Russia was second in 3510 after four events).
This is where the champion athlete wins out. " I was down, but I remembered where I was in Eugene. I was having a terrible event and Coach Reid came to me and said, " You only have to finish in the top three, relax. ". So, I relaxed and got through the event, then I got mad and told myself I had not trained so long, so hard to take third, i wanted to win in Eugene!" Which he did. You could see Clay's intensity. He is a complex athlete, a thoughtful athlete, and his resolve is clearly there-Clay knew what to do after the high jump. He ran the 400 meters.
" I had wanted to run faster, my training showed I should run faster, but that was okay." Clay scored 865 points for his 48.92 run, giving him a first day lead of 4,521. Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus ran 47.30 for the second best run, and for 943 points, for a total of 4,433 points, 88 points behind Clay. Trey Hardee of the US, who ran 47.75, had 4,428 points, just five points behind the second place decathlete. Osleksay Kasyanov of the Ukraine was at 4408 in fifth place while 2004 champ Roman Sebrle was sixth place in 4310 points.
" This may have been the toughest decathlon I have competed in, " noted Clay. His US teammmate, 2000 bronze medalist Tom Pappas, dropped out after three events, due to a foot injury.
The night of the first day is when the athlete eats, rehydrates, rests, and tries to revive oneself for the tough second day.
Bryan Clay started off day two well, hurdling 13.93 for 984 points and a six event total of 5,505. It was with this hurdle race that his lead began to grow, now up to 124 points over Belarussina Krauchanka who had 5,381. Trey Hardee was in third in 5,377, four points back from second. Oleksay Kasyanov of the Ukraine was fourth in 5,335, with Leonel Suarez of Cuba moved to fifth place and Alexander Pogorelov of Russia was in sixth place.
The heat was replaced by tough rain during the hurdles, and then rain changed to humid conditions once again.
The discus throw was a win for Bryan Clay as he popped the disc 53.79, for the third best performance, 950 points and a score of 6,455. Oleksay Kasyanov moved from fourth to second, with his throw of 48.39m, for 837 points and 6,179 overall. Krauchanka of Belarus had the sevententh best throw on 44.58m for 758 points and a third place of 6,139. Clays' lead was now 276 points, Trey Hardee of the US was in fourth.
In competing in ten events, one has to do his best in each and every event. Clay's performances continued his lead, with a 5.00 meter pole vault for 910 points, hitting 7,365 for seven event. Andrei Krauchanka held onto second with his 5.00 meter jump and a total of 7,049. Trey Hardee did not make a height, and dropped from fighting for the bronze to being out of the competition. Remember, decathletes win who make the least mistakes...Leonel Suarez of Cuba moved to sixth after his pole vault. Alexaner Pogorelov of Russia scored 6979 after his 5.00 meter pole vault, keeping him in third place. Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic was in eighth place, having his own decathlon hell.
While Bryan could not relax after the pole vault, his lead had grown to 317 points! His javelin put the decathlon gold in his real reach. The throw of 70.97m, for 910 points gave Clay 8,269 after nine events, and a lead of 439 points over Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, who threw the javelin ten meters shorter, with his 60.23m throw for 741 points for a nine event total of 7790.
The battle for third was not over. Leonel Suarez, the young Cuban decathlete blew out a 73.98m javelin throw for 950 points, taking his total to 7,777 points. Alexander Pogorelov of Russia, with his throw of 64.01, saw his lead over Suazez drop, who had moved up from sixth. Both athletes had 7,777 points. It would come down to the 1,500 meters.
With one event to go, Bryan Clay told this writer about what goes on between events. " Roman Sebrle and I talk about our daughters, how they like to dance around the house, how we miss them, how we could not bring them along..but after the javelin, Roman told me he would not run the 1,500 meters. I told him he had to, he had to, as I wanted him there when I won my gold medal.." Roman promised Bryan he would be there...
Alexander Krauchanka of Belarus ran 4:27.7 for 741 points and 8,551 for the silver medal. Leonel Suarez of Cuba ran a brilliant 4:29.17, gaining 750 points over the 551 points of Alexander Pogorelov of Russia, who could only muster 5:01.56. Suarez, at 8527, a Cuban national record, took the bronze. Pogorelov of Russai took fourth in 8328.
Romain Barrias ran 4:29.39 for 749 points and scoring 8,523 for fifth place.
2004 champion Roman Sebrele completed his 1,500 meters in 4:49.63 for 8,253 points and sixth place in the 2008 Olympic final.
Sebrele was there when Bryan Clay ran 5:06.59 for the 1,500 meters for 8,791 total points, a 240 point lead and the gold medal!
"I felt relief that the decathlon was over. I remember falling to my knees saying, we are done!" recollected Bryan Clay. " I was thrilled to be done. It feels weird to be the gold medalist. It will take time to sink in....It has been alot of work and a strong team behind me. I was happy that I had won gold, but it has not sunk in."
Right after Bryan Clay won the gold medal, in the US, a wonderful commercial, produced by Visa, Bryan's sponsor ran a commercial, and it is still running ( we will provide a link shortly), with Morgan Freeman doing the voice over, " Most Olympians have to win one event to take gold..what if you had nine more events before you won gold?"
A very happy Michael O'Hara Lynch, Global VP of Olympic Sponsorship for Visa very happily provided me with a VISA debit card with Bryan Clay hurdling. " We are committed through 2012, we are very happy with Bryan."
If that is an understatement. First, then get Michael Phelps with eight medals, then Bryan Clay, in a decathlon where one third of the field drops out, improves on his Athens silver to take the gold medal.
Bryan Clay is the Greatest Athlete in the World! And, he did it the old fashioned way,he lead the entire way, and he earned it. Well, that 1,500 meters could get under five minutes, but we can rib Mr. Clay about that another time!