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Beijing Notebook- Bryan Clay Absorbs his Decathlon Victory

Aug. 23, 2008, 6:53 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING - On Friday, Bryan Clay captured the first Olympic decathlon medal for the US since 1996 by winning the opening event, the 100m sprint, and never relinquishing the overall lead.

"I'm in the best shape of my life," he said. "You probably couldn't tell with some of the results. I'm pleased with my score of course, pleased with the medal, and pleased with the title that comes with the medal. I'm hoping my body holds out through 2012."

Clay's 8791 points was below his silver-medal winning total from the 2004 Athens Olympics but it exceeded his winning score at the 2005 World Championships.

No matter.  

Clay said he was "happy to have survived the extremes of conditions," four hours of sleep the night in the middle of the two-day event, and the Chinese officials' stick-to-the-rules attitude that nearly left the athletes with only one practice jump in the pole vault. (Once the decathletes found an interpreter, the officials were ultimately swayed by the decathletes' wishes.)

"For the most part, the Chinese did an amazing job. We've never had that many people in the stands for two days.

"I thought about breaking [Dan O'Brien's 1992] American record.  I tried to say on pace, but I'm exhausted. My number one goal was to compete well and get the gold. I hope the Wheaties box happens. I'd love to bring this event back to the US. I know what it means something to the Jenners and Toomeys," he said referring to the 1996 and 1968 Olympic gold medalists.

In the end, Clay also wanted the 2004 Olympic champion, Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic, by his side. "Roman and I are good friends," he said. "I said you have to run the 1500.He said, ‘Why?' I said, ‘I need you at the finish line so we could have pictures and celebrate together.'"

Sebrle complied and finished fifth.

"He's an unbelievable competitor," Clay said. "I'm not sure what was bothering him, but I know he was injured three times this year. I've had my fair share of injuries and I know exactly how that feels. My heart goes out to him."

"Decathlon's a brotherhood. There's no showboating," Clay added, implying a contrast to the other star on the track on Friday night (world record sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica who helped his country set a world record in the 4x100m relay).

"Just to finish, there's a certain amount of pride. It's why we do a victory lap together."