Bryan Clay’s mom gave him a choice as a kid: track or swimming.
He chose track, and the rest is history.
The sport rescued him from being a fist-fighting, drug-using, pre-suicidal kid in Hawaii, and was the vehicle for him to become the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon.
“Track is a great way to teach kids about life lessons and discipline,” Clay said. “It really reveals what your character is. It teaches you how far you can go, how to sacrifice and teaches things about love, just all kinds of things. It’s a great way for kids to learn.”
Clay will be one of the presenters today at the fourth annual Amherst ASICS Track Clinic. His presentation is largely demonstrative in the area of sprints and long jump, but it’s a good bet the main attraction is his journey to a gold medal.
“It’s one thing to sit down and just talk,” Clay said. “I enjoy letting coaches and athletes ask specific questions about training, about what I do for my training and what they should do for their training. It may be a unique situation that they’re in and try to figure out how to solve some of the problems that they’re daily having with their athletes.”
The 33-year-old has hosted a clinic in Hawaii since 2005 and has always enjoyed given back to kids and teenagers.
“It’s not as much a classroom. It’s more like a camp atmosphere,” Clay said. “We’re teaching kids how to train, we’re teaching kids technique.”
Clay wrote “Redemption” in 2012, which tells the story of his unlikely path to Olympic gold. He was raised mostly by his mom after a divorce while he was in elementary school, and she gave him what turned out to be a life-defining choice.
“What we need to do as coaches is to make sure that kids are learning those lessons and need to point out maybe those times when they’re going through a rough patch,” Clay said. “Whether it might be in training, in life or whatever it may be, and point out the lessons being learned there. If we can help kids to grow up in character, sports will have a lot less athletes going astray and making bad decisions later in their careers. I’m a firm believer of that.”
Clay was recruited by colleges as a sprinter and a jumper, but ultimately chose Azusa Pacific, which recruited him as a decathlete.
“Decathlon is a tough event. It’s 10 events over two days,” he said. “But it’s the same way you approach life.
“How many of us are juggling more than one thing every day as we walk through life? It’s what is required of more than just the average person. I’m lucky enough to have the event that parallels life more than people probably know. It’s prepared me well and taught me so much. I think I’m a better person now because of all the lessons I’ve learned. There are not a whole lot of athletes that I think can say that.”
Clay won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in Beijing with 8,791 points. It came four years after winning silver at Athens with 8,821 points, an all-time record for a second-place finisher. The Czech Republic’s Roman Sebrie won gold with 8,893.
“We didn’t change a whole lot with my training in preparation for Beijing from my training for Athens,” Clay said. “A lot of it was the expectation. I knew I had done everything possible to win that gold medal. There was a sense of confidence, not cockiness by any means. We knew it could be easily taken away if I made a mistake, but there was a sense of confidence that I was just more prepared than anyone else.
“When you can go into a competition with that approach you can go in and relax and allow yourself to compete. That’s what I was able to do in 2008. That’s what made the difference.”
A crash in the 110-meter hurdles and fouling out in the discus at the Olympic Trials derailed Clay’s chances for the 2012 London Games. He still competes but says it’s unlikely he’ll try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics when he’ll be 36.
“When I won the silver medal I no idea,” he said. “I was just hoping I would get a top-five finish. I didn’t know I was good enough. It was my dream goal, but that little bit of doubt was still there.
“After winning silver, I knew that I didn’t have to do anything different except to be more confident and do what I’m capable of doing.”
- WHAT: Fourth annual ASICS Comet Track Clinic
- TIME: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
- WHERE: Amherst Steele High School
- THE SKINNY: Speakers include: 2008 U.S. Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bryan Clay, four-time Olympic thrower Jud Logan, three-time Olympic distance runner Jim Spivey, Elyria Catholic graduate and former NFL player Matt Wilhelm, Case Western coach Eric Schmul and ASICS brand director Terry Schalow. The clinic is free to attend. It includes hands-on training, catered lunch, autograph session, free ASICS gift for all head coaches, plus clinic-priced training shoes and track spikes. Athletes should dress to participate. For more information, contact Amherst coach Rob Glatz at 988-4433.
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.