Bryan Clay is relatively small for a decathlete measuring 182cm (5’11”) and weighing 72kg (175 pounds). However, he uses his phenominal speed and power, as well as his compact frame, as a competitive advantage over his stature. For this reason, Clay excels in the sprinting and throwing events. “When you have a guy like me (Bryan Clay) who is a little more explosive, you can master the throwing events. It’s not necessarily size that matters, it’s how fast you move that implement”. Clay’s best events are the discus, 100m, long jump, and 110m hurdles.
As a sophomore at Castle High School, Clay attended a track clinic where he met Chris Huffins, the bronze medalist from the 2000 Olympic decathlon in Sydney, Australia. Huffins recognized Clay’s potential and encouraged him to train for the decathlon. Later, Huffins introduced Clay to Kevin Reid, a track coach at Azusa Pacific University (located in Southern California). Reid, a well established track and field coach, had helped train the 1992 Olympic decathlon bronze medalist Dave Johnson. Consequently, Clay attended Azusa Pacific University where he trained under the guidance of Coach Reid. To this day, Reid remains Clay’s instructor and close friend.
At Azusa Pacific University, Clay became a 23-time NAIA All-American. Clay won national titles for the decathlon in 2000 and the long jump in 2001. While an undergrad, Clay placed third in the decathlon at the 2001 Nationals with a score of 8,169 points; the fourth-best total by an American that year. At age 21, Clay was the 2001 U.S. Championship Bronze Medal in his first U.S. Championship competition. Clay also secured his position as a World Championship Team member in 2001. However, he was unable to finish on account of a hip injury.
As a senior in 2002, Clay led the Azusa Pacific Cougars to national indoor and outdoor championships, the first time that a team double had ever been accomplished. Clay was recognized as an NAIA “Outstanding Performer” after winning the pentathlon and the long jump in the 2002 NAIA Outdoor Championships. Clay finished second to Tom Pappas in the 2002 and 2003 U.S. Outdoor Championships. In 2003, Clay was also a member of the World Championship Team although a torn hamstring hindered him from competing.
In 2004, Bryan Clay won the silver at the World Indoor Championships. He finished with a total of 6369 points; the second highest score ever achieved by an American in heptathlon. Clay went on to defeat Pappas to win the decathlon event at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. In the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens Greece, Clay won the silver medal for the decathlon. Here too, Clay achieved the second highest score ever by an American decathlete (8820 pts). He followed that performance in 2005 with a win at the World Championships and in 2006 he was ranked as the No. 1 decathlete in the world.
However, Bryan’s training in the latter part of the 2006 and into the 2007 season was limited by injury and illness. Clay was unable to finish the 2006 U.S. Outdoor Championships due to low blood sugar. In 2007, a sore knee forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Outdoor Championships, and later a quadracep injury during the high jump forced him from competing in the World Championships.
After regaining his health, Clay competed in the heptathlon at the 2008 World Indoor Championships. He began with a win in the 60m and took three more events, scoring a personal best 6,371 points for his second world title. In 2008, he won the Olympic Trials in Oregon with a personal best score of 8,832pts which was a new Olympic Trials record. Again, his score at the 2008 trials was ranked the second highest score in American history.
Bryan went on to win the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he led his competitors in points from start (achieving the best time in the 100m) to finish (when he finally crossed the finish line in the 1500m heat). Amazingly, Clay won with a 240-point margin, the largest point-margin since 1972. He finished with a total of 8,791 points. As a result of Bryan’s intense training, passion and determination, and the support of his family, friends, and coaches he became an “Olympic Champion” and earned the title “The World’s Greatest Athlete”.