American Bryan Clay has dominated the decathlon event in recent years,
and has to be considered among the top contenders for a gold medal at
the Beijing Olympics in August. As VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, Clay
not only has a mission to win, he also is working hard to show that
performance-enhancing drugs are not needed to succeed.
Bryan Clay says his main objective as an elite athlete is to be a positive role model. "Nobody ever gets put into the spotlight for doing it the right way, or doing it clean and living the types of lifestyles that are not only good for the sport, but good for young kids to look up to," he said.
The 28-year-old Clay is married with two children, and says he would never want his kids to feel the disgrace of a doping scandal. Instead, he has trained tirelessly to be the best in the decathlon, a grueling series of 10 athletics events. The winner is recognized as the best all-around athlete in the world.
Clay's path to the decathlon was not planned. In fact, he says he was not always a good role model. "I was not the best kid growing up. My mom said I could either swim or run track and field. And I did not want to wear a speedo, so I chose track. And the joke is, of course, that I run around the track in spandex anyway, so it would not have made a difference," he said.
Clay's athleticism and competitive spirit would have served him well in the pool. But he may not have had the same success that he has enjoyed in track and field. Clay was the Olympic decathlon silver medalist in 2004, the World Outdoor champion in 2005 and the World Indoor heptathlon champion this year.
Clay was ranked No. 1 in the world in decathlon in 2005 and 2006, becoming the first American to hold that distinction in consecutive years since Dan O'Brien in 1995 and 1996.
At the 2005 World Outdoor Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Clay delivered an amazing performance in atrocious conditions to win the gold medal with a world-best total that year of 8,732 points. Clay won by a 211-point margin over reigning Olympic champion Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic.
Clay is aiming for a similar dominance in Beijing. "My mind is set on winning the gold medal. I do not know what the score is going to be, what it is going to take. All I know is I am going to go there. I am going to compete. And whether that is eight-thousand points or whether that is a world record at nine-thousand points, I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure I am standing at the top of the podium,"
After setting a personal best of 8,660 points with his win at the 2004 Olympic Trials, Clay bettered that effort with his silver medal-winning total of 8,820 points at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. That tally was the fourth-best in Olympic history, trailing only gold medal-winning performances by Roman Sebrle in 2004 (8,893), American Dan O'Brien in 1996 (8,824) and Great Britain's Daley Thompson (8,847) in 1984.
On Monday at the U.S. Olympic trials for Beijing held in Eugene,Oregon, Clay set another personal record with 8,832 points.
Bryan Clay appears to be peaking at the right time, and he hopes he can improve one place from four years ago, and win the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.