BEIJING (BP)–Bryan Clay, in winning the gold medal in the decathlon Aug. 22 and the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete,” tallied the largest margin of victory in the epic Olympic competition since 1972.
The U.S. Olympian’s 8,791 points in Beijing topped silver medalist Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus by 240 points. Leonel Suarez of Cuba won the bronze.
Clay’s commanding performance during the two-day 10-event competition, however, fell 235 points short of the world record and 102 shy of the Olympic record, both notched by Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic in 2001 and 2004, respectively. Clay won the silver medal in 2004 in the Athens Games. In Beijing, Sebrle came in sixth with a total of 8241 points.
Clay, 28, led the competition from the start, winning the 100 meter, and was never challenged as he finished first or second in four other events and third in two more. Clay finished last in his heat in the final event, the 1,500 meters -– which one of his coaches described as the decathlete’s least favorite part of the decathlon. But by then, his overall lead had become insurmountable.
Fellow U.S. decathlete Trey Hardee, in his first Olympics after finishing second in the 2008 Olympic Trials, was not among the top finishers in Beijing. Dan O’Brien was the last U.S. athlete to win the Olympic decathlon, at Atlanta in 1996.
Clay’s website noted that at 5’10” and 183 pounds, he was by far the smallest athlete at the top level of the decathlon, where the average athletes are 6’3″ and 205 pounds.
The website also notes Clay’s faith in Christ.
Clay, who grew up in Honolulu and competed in as many as six events at high school track meets, is described in the website’s biography section as a rebellious teenager who often found himself in trouble.
“Bryan credits two things with getting his life back on track: His success in sports that led him to college, and his belief and acceptance of the Christian faith,” the site says. “At [Azusa Pacific University in Southern California] Bryan really began to accept the Christian faith that his mother had been trying to instill in him for many years.”
Clay told Christianity Today, “A huge reason why I haven’t been tempted to take drugs or do anything of that sort is because I realize that winning is not my life, it’s not my identity. I know that God has me doing what I’m doing. I know that yes I can win. I also know that I’m not going to win all the time and I know that either way, win or lose, that God is going to provide for me.”
BMX BRONZE GOES TO DONNY ROBINSON — Donny Robinson survived two crashes en route to the bronze medal in the Olympics’ inaugural BMX cycle event in Beijing.
Competing in a sport replete with tumbles, jostling and contact, Robinson’s 36.972 in the final run fell fractions of a second short of Latvian gold medalist Maris Strombergs’ 36.190 and fellow U.S. teammate Mike Day’s 36.606.
Robinson, describing BMX (bicycle motorcross) in an interview with the Napa Valley Register before heading to China, said, “We’re going eight riders wide, going 40 mph, jumping 40-foot jumps, coming off a three-and-a-half-story starting hill.”
Robinson, a former competitive gymnast who rode to victory last year in the test event at the Beijing course, said he believes BMX is “something that the viewers are going to be kind of psyched about. Everyone’s ridden a bike and to see what is possible on a BMX bike nowadays is just going to have them in awe of what we’re doing out there.”
The competition in Beijing encompassed nine races from Aug. 20-22.
In an interview with Baptist Press, Robinson had noted that BMX is not just a group of “punk kids” on cycles. “We are athletes,” he said. “We watch what we eat. We have to train every day. We’re totally conscious of the responsibility that we have to be role models to the kids.”
For Robinson, BMX played a part in his journey to faith in Christ. When he was 12, the team manager for his BMX team was a Christian who often played Christian music on team trips and lived in a way that Robinson could see the difference. The influence of the coach helped him realize “that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be giving my life to the Lord.”
“BMX as a sport is not really one where you see a lot of Christian athletes speak out about their beliefs,” he acknowledged. “I understand that everything that I’ve been given and been allowed to do is because of Christ. … The reason that I’m going to the Olympics … is because God said, ‘This is your talent and this is how you’re going to have people see Me.'”
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston, BP staff writer Erin Roach and Tim Ellsworth, who is covering the Olympics for Baptist Press.