U.S. strikes Gold in Decathlon


Bryan Clay

By Dr. Bob Elliott

The “World’s Greatest Athlete” has been declared at the 2008 Summer Games. 

U.S. Gold Medalist Bryan Clay won the grueling Decathlon events with 8791 points.  Clay is the first American to win the event since 1996.  He finished 240 points ahead of 2nd place, producing the biggest winning margin since Russia’s Nikolay Avilov in 1972. After the race, which ended late in the evening, he declared, “I just want to eat and sleep.”  Another U.S. competitor, Trey Hardee, was a contender for a medal until he no-heighted in the pole vault

U.S. competitors in the women’s 5000 meters, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and Jen Rhines found themselves involved in a competition that, for the first half, looked more like a slow-motion movie.   Obviously, this was going to be a strategically run race.  Oregon’s Kara Goucher, who was recovering from a sinus infection, finished 9th in 15:49.39 and after the race declared, “I have a lot of work to do.  The pace was slow…I maintained by composure.  I know this sounds crazy, but I think I could have won that on the right night.  I still have so much improvement left.”  Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar has suggested that Goucher should consider moving to the marathon where, he believes, “She could be the best in the world.”  Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia), who was awarded the Gold for her performance in the 10K last week, won the 5K in 15:41.40, 7.99 seconds ahead of Goucher.  Dibaba was the only double-gold medalist in this years’ track and field competition.  Flanagan finished 10th in 15:50.80 and Rhines finished in 16:34.63.

Last night proved that “lightening” can strike twice, or even three times, in the same place. The roar was deafening as Usain Bolt led the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to another electrifying, world record performance (37.10).   This time the Jamaican team of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt produced the greatest margin win (0.96 seconds) since the Berlin Olympics in 1936.  The Jamaica team performance wipes out the U.S. record of 37.40 set in 1992 (and equaled during 1993).

In the long jump, Brittany Reese, who commented after the competition that she knew after her second jump that she was not performing up to her potential, finished 5th at 22-2¼.  Grace Upshaw, who declared that she “got a bug right after prelims” finished 8th with a 21-7 performance and  Funmi Jimoh finished 12th in 20-7¾.
As the evening ended, Australia’s Steve Hooker (pictured below) delighted the few fans that remained in the Bird’s Nest National Stadium with an Olympic record performance in the pole vault. 

His 19-6¾ performance was set during his third attempt after he had already been declared the Gold medalist.  Bronze was awarded to Denys Yurchemko (Russia) with a vault of 18-8½.  U.S. vaulter Derek Miles declared, after his 4th place vault of 18-8½ (he had more misses than Yurchemko at the same height), that, “It was a tough day.  It was one of those days when I was forcing things.  Nothing was clicking and falling into place.” Brad Walker, Olympic Trials Champion, failed to qualify for the finals.

Tonight is the final evening of track and field at the Bird’s Nest. It will be another exciting competition with U.S. finalists in the women’s high jump, women’s 1500 meters, men’s 5000 meters, and the men’s and women’s 4x400m relays.  In addition to running fast times, the goal of the relay teams will be to hold onto the baton and stay in the lane! We will report on these results tomorrow morning, before we board our plane to return to the U.S.  During our flight home we will write one final article summarizing our impressions of the Beijing Games, as well as some reflections of our experiences.

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Decided to take a trip to Florence for the day to enjoy the coast. A little overcast and showery but nice just the same. Fall is near.