A look at Bryan Clay's last six decathlons, covering the 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons, reveals 1500-meter decathlon performances that have been mostly weak to the point of embarrassment to himself and to the sport. With the exception of Athens, his 1500-meter times have been extraordinarily poor. In Athens, he ran a respectable 4:41.65, for 670 points, which is still 7 seconds slower than his personal best. Let’s assume that he performed just as well in all his decathlons since Sacramento in 2004. The comparative results appear in the table below.
Bryan Clay's 1500-meter performance in major decathlons, 2000 - 2006: comparison between actual time and 4:41.65
If 4:41.65 (670 Points)
The difference in Clay’s running a decent 1500 meters yields stunning consequences:
1) His top ten decathlons would total 85325, 10th on the all-time list, instead of 84623, 18th on the all-time list.
2) He would have 4 of the top 25 decathlons ever, instead of only 1.
3) He would have won Talence in 2004, edging Roman Sebrle’s 8217 tally by 24 points.
4) He would have won the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge with 25660 points to Roman Sebrle’s 25381, instead of taking 2nd place with 25199 points.
Clay’s glaring performance weakness causes three major problems to his legacy:
1) It cancels out Clay’s amazing improvements over the past three years in the throwing events.
2) It prevents him from achieving the consistency necessary for greatness.
3) It trivializes the spirit of the decathlon by reducing the final event to a feeble jog by an otherwise great decathlete, clocking a time that even sub-mediocre 14-year-old middle-distance runners could surpass.
To see a standard of remarkable consistency, notice that Sebrle has completed 53 of 56 decathlons that he has competed in throughout his 16-year career, and only one has exceeded the five-minute mark.
What is Clay saying to fans who spend a lot of money and time to see him end his two-day challenge in a whimper — often in dead-last place? Clay has no chance of breaking Sebrle’s world record of 9026 or even Dan O’Brien’s American record of 8891 points, for that matter — if he continues to surrender the decathlon in the final event. In fact, he doesn’t belong competing or deserve the title "world’s greatest athlete" if he reduces the decathlon to an anticlimactic stroll on the track.
Story: Philip Vassallo, Ed.D.
Photo: Tommy Sarenbrant (www.tiokamp.nu)