Bryan Clay tossed the javelin 224 feet, 3 inches yesterday en route to his U.S. Olympic Trials victory in the decathlon.

Clay fits mold of
a champion

Tom Pappas moves over to make
room for the Castle grad

Remember Dan and Dave?

Ready for Bryan and Tom?

America's gold-medal hopefuls in the 1992 Olympic decathlon spawned the Barcelona Games' biggest hype (other than the Dream Team, which lived up to it), as Reebok used the friendly rivalry between Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson to sell shoes -- even though Dan ended up not qualifying and Dave settled for a bronze medal.

The stage could be set for something similar with Bryan Clay and Tom Pappas. But it would have to be done very quickly, since the Olympics are just a few weeks away.

Clay, a Castle High School graduate (who went to the same college, Azusa Pacific, as Dave), made local sports history yesterday by becoming the first Olympic decathlete from Hawaii, winning the 10-event test handily at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif. But he also chased a personal demon by beating Pappas, the two-time defending world champion, for the first time.

Clay said the two are friends, but they are now officially rivals -- and for the whole world to see. Both will be contenders for the gold medal in Athens on Aug. 23-24. And both are sponsored by Nike.

Before finishing second yesterday, Pappas was considered Clay's superior by most around the sport. Also, his story -- and the Olympics are as much about stories as they are about medals -- is a compelling one because of his Greek ethnicity.

Pappas has been promoted much more than Clay.

Clay does appear in a truck commercial, but as a fictional character, not himself.

He admits that the perception of the bigger and more experienced Pappas being the dominant decathlete in the U.S. bothered him, and might have given him an edge going into the trials.

"A little bit. It kind of bugs me," Clay said in a phone interview after his win. "People didn't expect me to do well, and nobody expected me to do this well. I feel good that I proved that I'm just as good as Tom and Roman (world-record holder Sebrle of the Czech Republic). Hopefully it will stick in people's minds.

"Don't get me wrong," Clay added. "Tom is a great guy. We get along very well. We talk to each other the entire time (during competition). We'll probably get together and do some training together. He deserves everything he gets. But people need to remember there are other athletes out here. Give the others some love, too."

Pappas has also been gracious in his comments about Clay.

Clay receives equipment and "a small stipend" from Nike, he said.

"That's pretty much it. I don't know if that will change now. But I'm always open to any kind of support."

A small group of Hawaii businessmen who are track enthusiasts has helped Clay financially.

"It would've been too hard without them. They've really stepped up and made it possible for me to do this," he said. "Training is a full-time job. I'm on the track five hours a day and in the weight room two hours a day."

If Clay medals in Athens, he might begin to command large appearance fees and endorsement offers. Unless Nike decides to build an ad campaign around him pronto, his life leading up to Athens will remain austere.

Part of Clay wants it that way.

"Things could definitely become a distraction," he said yesterday, anticipating media hype and other time demands that could take away from his training. "But I have a good group to buffer me from the outside."

It includes his coach, Kevin Reid, and trainer, Calan Cavosos, who is also from Hawaii. Cavosos could be the unsung hero of Clay's victory. It was he who tended to the hamstring Clay tweaked in the first event, the 100 meters, on Friday.

"It was weird. I hurt it in the 100, but then I had a big long jump. I wasn't sure about the 400, but I ran it and it held up," Clay said. "Then it felt pretty good (Saturday) morning. I think the last couple 'decs' we've learned a lot, a lot about recovering."

Clay recovered well enough to post personal decathlon bests in the pole vault, javelin and discus yesterday on his way to beating Pappas and the rest of the field. Clay had such a huge lead, he nearly jogged the 1,500 meters on his way to a personal record of 8,660.

"We talked about going after that big 8,800 score," Reid said. "But it got to the point we didn't want to dip into those reserves. We'll need those in Athens."

What the U.S. track team needs in Athens is stars and stories, and those appear to be in short supply. Most of the media attention at the trials had to do with the tribulations of falling stars accused of cheating. Maybe a friendly rivalry between decathletes will help people forget about that.

Bryan Clay stands 5-feet-10 and weighs around 180 pounds, small for a decathlete.

"Something funny happened when they received their awards," said Martin Hee, who was Clay's coach at Castle and attended the trials. "Bryan was in the middle and Tom Pappas and the third-place guy (Paul Turek) were on either side. Bryan was elevated, so they were all the same height."

Clay vs. Pappas

A look at their marks at the U.S. Olympic Trials:e


Personal bests: Clay in shot put, pole vault and javelin. Pappas in pole vault.

Notable: Pappas threw the discus more than 17 feet less than his personal record.


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