World Champion

‘The world’s greatest athlete’ comes back to the Islands to promote the Bryan Clay Foundation — and ‘give back to the community’

Here stands the world’s greatest athlete, Bryan Clay, and he is beaming, despite the towering mass of cumulonimbus clouds hanging over his head.

Bill Mossman
Friday - October 07, 2005
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Decathlete Bryan Clay took the gold medal at the 2005 World Outdoor Championships in Helinski this summer
Decathlete Bryan Clay took the gold medal at the
2005 World Outdoor Championships in Helinski this
summer

Here stands the world’s greatest athlete, Bryan Clay, and he is beaming, despite the towering mass of cumulonimbus clouds hanging over his head.

So why the mile-wide smile in such ominous weather conditions? Well, it isn’t just because of the glittering gold medal he ran off with in Helsinki this summer, and which he now numbers among his most prized possessions. Mostly, it’s because in his arms sits his little ray of sunshine, a bundle of energy with streaks of yellow glistening in his hair.


For Clay - the now world-renowned decathlete and the most famous person with that surname since Cassius and Andrew Dice - the events of the past three months, which include his victory at the 2005 World Outdoor Championships in August, all come in a distant second to the birth of his infant son, Jacob Ezra.

“The love I have for him is so much greater than the love I have for track and field,” says the 25-year-old Clay as father and child ham it for the camera during a MidWeek photo shoot. The athlete claims to have really taken a liking to his fatherly duties - even the one that requires he rub sleep from his tired eyes and high hurdle-it into Jacob Ezra’s room in the middle of the night for a feeding. “I actually look forward to those times, giving him a bottle and having him look up at me. When we’re there alone, it’s just son and dad time. That is just an amazing experience.”

When asked which he prefers - changing dirty diapers or competing in, say, the 1,500-meter run - Clay rubs his nose, as he does over and over again during this interview. No, it isn’t the detection of poo in the air that makes his nostrils itch; it’s the odious reminder that the 1,500-meter run is his weakest event in the decathlon.

“I love the sport, but I can do without that event,” explains the half-black, half-Japanese athlete, whose facial features remind some of Roland Lee Gift, the lead singer of the English pop group Fine Young Cannibals. “If they took the 1,500 out of the decathlon, I definitely wouldn’t be mad.”

Clay at his alma mater Castle High School with coach Martin Hee
Clay at his alma mater Castle High School
with coach Martin Hee

So dirty diapers wins, right?

Clay beams.

He’s smiling a lot these days - and why not? After all, life has been good. For example, Clay, wife Sarah and Jacob Ezra are back in the islands for a month-long stay, during which time he will promote the Bryan Clay Foundation (offering academic and athletic scholarships to underprivileged high school student athletes) and make a number of public appearances on behalf of Straub Bone & Joint Center (the next two events are: Getting a Grip on Arthritis, from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Ilikai Hotel; and Kids Fest, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Bishop Museum.)

“I’m just trying to give back to the community,” says Clay, who still considers Hawaii home even though his house is located in Glendora, Calif. “I want to let people know that I haven’t forgotten where I came from, and I haven’t forgotten all the people who’ve helped me along the way.

“God’s given me a platform to work from,” he continues, “and I think it’s only right that I take some of those blessings I’ve been given and share them with others.”

There is another reason why Clay is in such good spirits: He’s back at his old stomping grounds for this interview. Yes, the Knight Who Made Good has returned to his alma mater, Castle High School, where on this day he has just finished addressing a thousand-plus screaming students at a pep rally and where, true to its Windward setting, it’s about to pour.


The irony isn’t lost on Clay. During his high school years that began a decade ago, he and his fellow track and field teammates were often forced to practice inside the school gym because rain-soaked conditions had left potholes on the field. And then during this summer’s World Championships, he and the rest of the competitors were subjected to two days of intense thunder, winds and heavy rains. It seems that no matter where Clay goes, treacherous weather conditions are often right behind him. “Everyone in the decathlon was complaining at the World Championships,” he remembers. “But I just looked at my coach, Kevin Reid, and said, ‘I grew up in Hawaii. This is what it’s like all the time.’”

Here stands the world’s smallest decathlete, who at 5-foot-11 inches also happens to be one of shortest competitors the sport has ever known. Tall decathletes often have a leverage advantage in throwing events - while those with both height and weight often have the benefit in strength events. Today’s prototype would be someone like Greek-American Tom Pappas, who stands 6 feet 5 inches. Even those of yesteryear, such as Dan O’Brien and Bruce Jenner, are both 6 feet 2 inches. But Clay is an anomaly. He is already swifter than most; heck, the majority of the world’s decathletes could-n’t even snare Clay in their dreams - even if they used Velcro! Amazingly, however, it’s his strength that sets him apart.

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