On a cold, gray November morning, decathlete Bryan Clay trains at his alma mater, Azusa Pacific University – on the same track where he honed his skills to win silver in Athens in 2004 and gold in Beijing in 2008.
As Clay sets his sights on London at this summer’s games, the 31-year old reigning Olympic decathlon champion is determined to make history – to become the first athlete to win three Olympic medals in the grueling 10-event decathlon.
With the Olympic Games just eight months away, Clay and his trainers are setting up rigorous training sessions in preparation for the US Olympic Trials.
“We’re training as good as we ever have,” said Clay. “I’m looking forward to this year. It’s going to be a fun year.”
But while his win in Beijing may have earned him the title of “Greatest Athlete in the World,” Clay confides that staying number one is much harder than chasing after it.
In the last four years since Beijing, Clay has been hampered by injuries, suffering a hamstring injury that forced him out of the World Championships in 2009. Knee surgery also kept Clay from competing during most of 2010.
And despite gracing Wheaties cereal boxes across the nation and appearing on David Letterman, Clay fell quietly out of the limelight, as most Olympic athletes inevitably do.
The fame and fortune that followed other Olympic stars such as Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt eluded Clay.
“I just kind of thought if I went out there and won, I thought, yeah, it would be pretty cool . . .but at the same time, there was another side of me that thought, ‘No one is going to really care,’” said Clay, who lives with his wife and three young children in Glendora. “It has been great since the Olympic games and some of my dreams have been fulfilled and some haven’t been. But that’s not really why I do what I do. I understand the role that track plays in my life and the rest of my life, and just not right now, and I think that’s an important perspective to have.”
In dealing with the disappointments of post-Beijing life, Clay says he has focused his efforts on the goals themselves, rather than the perks that may come with them.
And other than the seeking one more victory on the Olympic stage, Clay is hoping to use his achievements to inspire youth to follow their own dreams and lead a healthy lifestyle.
In 2005, following his silver medal-winning performance in Athens, Clay founded the Bryan Clay Foundation, a mentorship program aimed to encourage and empower youth. The foundation has hosted walk-a-thons and kid clinics to benefit schools and children’s health programs, and has also awarded scholarships.
The foundation has raised $140,000 for schools since its inception. This year, Clay was recognized by USA Track & Field as the Visa Humanitarian of the Year.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, the Foundation is hosting a FIT4FALL 5K Run in Glendora. The race will begin at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Glendora Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. The $30 pre-registration fee will go toward The Bryan Clay Foundation. Runners can register at the FIT4FALL 5K Run Web site, and those who donate a minimum of three canned goods or a bag of clothing on race day will receive $5 back from their registration fee. Donated goods will go towards the and .
“The best thing I can do as an athlete and as being someone people look to, I want to make sure I live what I preach and I want to be able to go out and teach kids that I realize my potential and I realize what my contribution to the world can be, and I’m not going to sit back and squander it,” said Clay. “I want to be able to use my influence to make my community better, to make my state, my country better, and ultimately the world a better place.”