Wednesday, June 17, 2009


On a cloudy Seattle day, had the opportunity to watch “The World’s Greatest Athlete”, 2008 Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay (left/photo by Paul Merca from 2008 Olympic Trials) do a workout at the Dempsey Indoor on the campus of the University of Washington in preparation for the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships next week in Eugene, Oregon.

Clay is no stranger to Seattle and the University of Washington, as he frequently spends time in the area during the off-season, as his wife Sarah’s (who attended high school at King’s in north Seattle and was a former Azusa Pacific javelin thrower) family still resides in the area.

Bryan began his successful 2008 Olympic campaign by competing at the Husky Preview meet by finishing second in the 60 hurdles in 7.93, placing second in the long jump in 7.42m (24-4.25), and winning the shot put with a toss of 15.69m (51-5.75).

In Wednesday’s workout, Clay concentrated on his pole vault technique, under the watchful eye of Husky vault coach Pat Licari, who is no slouch in this event, as he’s the coach to American record holder Brad Walker.

Here's highlights of Clay's practice Wednesday:

Between vaults, Clay got some good natured ribbing from Washington throws coach Reedus Thurmond about taking his personalized Nike spikes and throwing shoes with the gold swoosh and the name CLAY etched on the heels and putting them up for sale on eBay.

After the 90-minute training session, we had a chance to catch up with the Olympic champion.

Special thanks to former Yelm HS shot putter Jesse Roberge, who now is an associate of Clay’s agent Paul Doyle for helping set up the interview.

Talk about what you are doing here in Seattle in the run-up to the nationals—I understand that you are doing some speaking and media appearances.

I have some speaking engagements in the area. I’m speaking in Tacoma on Sunday (Father’s Day) at the Champions Centre, and my wife’s family is from here. It’s a nice change of scenery from California. I’m much more relaxed when I am here in the state of Washington.

(note: Since arriving in Seattle from Toronto on June 12th, Clay helped celebrate his wife’s birthday, taken his family to the Woodland Park Zoo, conducted interviews with the Seattle Times, KOMO & KING TV, Northwest Runner, and will be throwing the first pitch Friday night at the Seattle Mariners’ game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. All that in addition to preparing for next week's USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships).

Where are you going into the nationals?

I spent a lot of time doing PR work for my sponsors after the Olympics. We’ve been busy! That was expected after the Olympics.

(note: After the Olympics, Clay took a well-deserved break from training. Among his activities since Beijing included appearing on David Letterman, signing a deal with Wheaties, speaking at the Republican National Convention, pitching a new cross-training shoe for Nike, and helping the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid campaign).

I’m in good shape this year. I jumped 17 feet in practice today, which is a lot higher than what I was vaulting a few years ago. I’m hurdling well—I ran 14.00 in pouring rain (in Toronto at the Festival of Excellence) and a headwind. I started training for this season later than normal.

The idea is to be smart about your training and try not to get hurt and compete smart. If everything goes as planned, and I go to the championships with no injuries, then things will be ok. By the time world championships rolls around, I will be right where I need to be, as I’ll have six more weeks of training under my belt.

That’s the hard part about the US selection system is having to come off an Olympic year and be the Olympic champion, and still have to compete in the US championships to qualify (for Worlds). They say that this (the US championships) is the fairest way to pick the world championship team—I’m not the boss; I just do what I’m told.

I think about 8500 points is what it will take to make the world championship team. I see Ashton Eaton in there; Trey Hardee’s already scored over 8500 this season.

When you go into a big meet like the nationals, do you have certain benchmark workouts that you do that give you a certain sense of confidence, and what are they?

We always run a 320 at 400-meter speed in practice. This gives me an idea where I’m at. We always time touchdown times over the hurdles to see how fast we’re running between the hurdles. I’ll always know where I’m at in the shot put when I throw in practice.

You always like to be at a certain place before you start competing. I feel like I’m definitely there, but I’m just not as sharp as I’d like to be going into a meet like the nationals.

The decathlon’s a rough event—it’s not like running the 100 or 200. It’s a lot of work! My body for the last ten years has been beat up.

Take a hard look at how long most decathletes last—I’m pushing that envelope now—there’s only been a handful of decathletes that have gone more than two Olympiads. I’m looking to go one more.

Talk about the current state of the event in this country, with the young bucks (Ashton Eaton, Trey Hardee & Jake Arnold), the established guys (yourself, Paul Terek ), the old man (Tom Pappas), etc.

Anyone will tell you that there will always be someone else. On any given day, someone will have the meet of their life. You just have to make sure that when that someone has the meet of their life, that you are ready to respond to it. If you’re not, then you’re gonna get beat. I’m still waiting for the meet of my life; one of these days, I’m going to get it.

What’s the closest you’ve come to having the perfect decathlon?

If I was to go off where I was at, I would say that Athens (2004 Olympics, where he finished second) was almost the perfect meet, considering where I was at when I did it. That year, I scored 8400 early in the season 8660 at the Trials, then 8820 at the Games. The only bad events I had were the 400 where I ran 49.19, and the hurdles, where I ran 14.1 after hitting a hurdle hard.

I’ve grown since then, and my expectations have grown since then. At the Trials last year, I scored 8832, but had a bad shot put, and a bad long jump. At the Olympics I had a better shot put and a better long jump, but I had a bad high jump.

The day I have the perfect meet is the day that I break the world record.

You did something for the Seattle Marathon back in November that very few people in the local media picked up on with kids. Talk about that and how you got involved with the Seattle Marathon folks.

My niece was participating in the kid’s marathon, and because she was in it, I decided to come out and support her. The Seattle Marathon folks wondered if I could go and talk to some of the kids, so I made myself available. I helped cheer for the kids as they were finishing. You know, it was nothing big; I just hung out and had a good time with the kids.

I was able to take something from that experience and hope to do something similar to what I did in Hawaii and in Glendora, because I think what the Seattle Marathon is doing is such a great program.

I’ve read that you’d like to live here in Washington when you are finished competing. Could you elaborate on that?

I’d like to be able to give Sarah what she wants, and that’s to be close to family. If the opportunity became available, and I could provide for my family, then I’d love to come up this way.

My ultimate goal is to have a house here and in Hawaii! That’s the dream (laughs)!

The goals for 2009 & beyond…8891 (Dan O’Brien’s American record) & world record (Roman Sebrle of Czech Republic’s 9026)?

2010 is probably the best opportunity to go for the world record, as there’s nothing going on then. Gotzis is probably the best opportunity to go for it. I’m gonna go there and have the best meet that I possibly can. If it happens that I get the world record, then great. And if it doesn’t happen, oh well…hopefully I score well enough to win the meet and improve on my personal best.

Twitter & Facebook (1957 FB, 1804 TW on 6/17/09)—inspiration for your sites, and goals. Also, what’s the feedback been like from your followers?

Realistically, we are shooting to have as many people as we can get. I’d like to see my numbers around that of Oprah Winfrey and Ashton Kutcher, but realistically, I don’t know if that’s happening. I thought that we (he and his management group, led by agent Paul Doyle) would throw that number out there (8832, his decathlon personal best) and see if we could get that.

(note: Follow Bryan at; follow Bryan on Facebook here...)

The thing that’s so exciting is that people can follow me all the time. I’m updating from practice. I like letting people know how much practice sucks, and how painful it is. Sarah likes to take pictures of me laying on the ground after a hard workout with my phone at practice and posts it. It’s really fun to involve my fans in what I do on a day to day basis.

We actually had higher numbers on my Facebook page, but we didn’t have control over our page, so we had to start over and create a fan page. We lost a bit of following when we started over, but we knew that. With the fan page on Facebook, fans can interact with each other.

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