From the thrilling Opening Ceremony to Michael Phelps’ iconic eight gold medals, the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 were truly unforgettable. Relive the 10-year anniversary of the Games through Aug. 24 as TeamUSA.org recaps the daily highlights from Beijing. Here’s a look at Team USA's performance on Day 14, Aug. 22, 2008.
Bryan Clay was certain he wasn’t going to make it. Lying on his back, his body broken, the American was in first place after nine of 10 decathlon events at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008. Now he just needed to finish the 1,500-meter within 68 seconds of Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, and he’d be Olympic champion.
With the encouragement of his friend, 2004 gold medalist Roman Sebrle from Czech Republic, Clay dragged himself to the starting line. Then he slogged through one lap, then another.
“I felt like I was running in water, not getting anywhere,” Clay told TeamUSA.org one year later. “Every step I took, it was getting further and further away.”
Krauchanka went all out in the three-and-three-fourths lap race; Clay finished dead last.
Regardless, Clay’s time of 5:06.59 was only 39.12 seconds behind Krauchanka. Not only was he Olympic champion, but his 240-point margin of victory in the two-day event was the largest in an Olympic decathlon since 1972.
“I didn't know (my score) until they put it on the Jumbotron there,” Clay, the 2004 silver medalist, said. “I don't remember when that was; I don't even care! I just knew that I had won the gold medal.”
Clay’s gold medal was one of two for Team USA on Aug. 22. With the Closing Ceremony now closing in just two days away, American athletes won eight total medals on Day 14 of the Games.
One day after Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor won their second consecutive gold medal in women’s beach volleyball, fellow Americans Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers took the men’s gold medal, beating the Brazilian team of Marcio Araujo and Fabio Magalhaes 2-1 in the final.
With BMX making its Olympic debut in Beijing, U.S. athletes took three of the six medals. Mike Day and Donny Robinson finished second and third, respectively, on the men’s side, while Jill Kintner was third in the women’s competition.
In taekwondo, Steven Lopez came in as the favorite to win the 80 kg. division, having won two previous Olympic gold medals and four world titles. However, following a surprise loss in the semifinals, he ended up with the bronze medal. Still, along with siblings Mark (silver) and Diana (bronze), the Lopezes won three medals in Beijing. They had already been the first three siblings to make a U.S. Olympic Team together since 1904.
On the track, Derek Miles originally finished fourth in men’s pole vault but was later upgraded to bronze when another athlete was disqualified for doping. Heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder also won a bronze medal.
In a sign of things to come, three U.S. men’s teams easily won their semifinals to advance to their respective gold-medal games. After getting a bye through the quarterfinals, water polo beat Serbia 10-5. In basketball, Team USA cruised past Australia 101-81, while the volleyball team beat Russia 3-2.
Chrös McDougall covered the 2008 Games for the Olympic News Service. He has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.