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United States' Clay earns decathlon gold

Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2005

 

  Bryan Clay of the United States shouts out during the Decathlon discus at the 10th World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005. AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Bryan Clay of the United States shouts out during the Decathlon discus at the 10th World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005.

AP Photo/Martin Meissner

HELSINKI, Finland — Bryan Clay looks too small to be the ''world's greatest athlete.'' Tianna Madison seems too young to be a world champion.

Both Americans were triumphant, though, on a cold, wet and windy Wednesday night at the world track and field championships.

Clay, at 5-foot-11 dwarfed by his mammoth opponents, defeated Olympic champion and world record holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic, 8,732 points to 8,521, to win the gold medal in the decathlon, 10 events completed in awful weather over two days.

Madison, a 19-year-old junior-to-be at Tennessee, soared to a personal-best 22-7 1/4 on her next-to-last attempt to win the women's long jump. Olympic bronze medalist Tatyana Kotova was second at 22-3 1/2. Eunice Barber of France, heptathlon silver medalist in Helsinki, was third with a wind-aided 22-2 1/4.

The two victories, and Sanya Richards' second-place finish in the 400 meters, gave the United States nine medals through five days of competition — six gold and three silver.

Clay, Olympic silver medalist in Athens, kept the world decathlon title in American hands, replacing Tom Pappas, who won it in Paris in 2003 and is injured this year.

''Bryan is truly a special athlete,'' fellow U.S. decathlete Phil McMullen said. ''He's short, composed, with extreme explosiveness, and with extreme intelligence to really grasp all the events — in heated competitions.''

For Clay, though, the victory was not his biggest event of the summer. He was there for the birth of his son Jacob on July 1.

''I helped deliver the baby and everything. That was probably the most exciting moment of my life,'' Clay said. ''This is a somewhat close second.''

Training at his alma mater, tiny Azusa Pacific near Los Angeles, Clay hasn't received the worldwide attention afforded Pappas and Sebrle, but that should change with his victory.

''I know that it doesn't sound like it, I really don't mind not having the recognition,'' he said. ''I'm kind of one of those guys that likes to come out, do my job, go home and be with my family. I can't tell you how much I want to just pack everything up and go home and be with them.''

Born in Texas and raised in Hawaii, with a Japanese mother and African-American father, Clay credits his success to intense training under a team of coaches headed by Azusa Pacific men's coach Kevin Reid.

''I've been dreaming about this since I was a little kid, since I was 8 years old. So I'm just glad that dreams are finally starting to come true,'' he said.

Giggling as she spoke, Madison said she knew she would be a champion, but maybe not this soon.

''No surprise at all,'' she said. ''I expected it. I've dreamed about this, prayed about it. I knew it was going to happen — I just didn't know which year. I'm overwhelmed really.''

Unlike the sprinters, who could race, then run for cover, Madison had to stay out in the elements, where the temperature dipped into the 50s, with the wind and rain making it seem even colder. In between jumps, she huddled in a small plastic hut near the pit.

''There were no conditions in my mind,'' she said. ''Everyone had the same thing, and I don't focus so much on what I can't control, only on what I can control.''

Two years ago, in Elyria, Ohio, she was a high school sensation, becoming only the third prep athlete to win four individual events at the state championships four years in a row. One of the other two was Jesse Owens.

Madison burst onto the national scene this year, winning the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships.

She was in third place when she uncorked her big jump. A foul on her previous attempt gave her confidence.

''Because it was so far, I knew I could just get a better jump and not foul,'' she said.

Richards took home a silver, but the 20-year-old runner expected more. She faded down the stretch and finished second to Olympic gold medalist Tonique Darling-Williams.

of the Bahamas, who won in 49.55 seconds. Richards finished in 49.74, followed by defending champion Ana Guevara of Mexico in 49.81.

''I know I could have won that race,'' Richards said. ''I ran my first 200 a little bit too fast and then when I was having to make my kick I didn't have as much as I've been having all season. I was breaking down. I ran out of gas a little bit.''

With four-time defending champion Hicham El Guerrouj not competing in the 1,500, Moroccan-born Rashid Ramzi, running for Bahrain, won in 3:37.88.

The biggest cheers in Olympic Stadium came in the javelin, where Finland hoped for a medal. But Tero Pitkamaki disappointed them with a fourth-place finish. Andrus Varnik of Estonia won at 286-0.

U.S. sprinters had the four best times in the 200 semifinals, led by Tyson Gay's 20.27 seconds.

John Capel, the old man of the quartet at 26, stirred up some trouble by relating a run-in with the younger U.S. sprinters before the meet started, calling them ''a bunch of little punks.''

Wallace Spearmon, 20, brushed aside the episode as no big deal and jokingly disputed Capel's version of the events.

''See, that's why we're going to get on them because now they want to start lying,'' Capel responded. ''It's whatever they want to say. It's still all fun and games.''

U.S. runners Jeremy Wariner, Darold Williamson and Andrew Rock advanced to Friday night's finals in the 400.

Because of the weather, the women's pole vault featuring world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva was postponed until Friday.



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