Carson High grad coaches decathlete to gold medal
August 23, 2008
After Johnny Unitas led the Baltimore Colts to a touchdown drive in overtime to give them a 23-17 win over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, he was asked wasn’t he taking a chance by passing up a game-winning field goal?
Unitas replied that when you know what you’re doing, you’re really not taking a chance.
When Bryan Clay was passing up height after height in the pole vault during the decathlon at the Olympics in Beijing, it was causing anxious moments for many who were following the competition.
All Clay had to do was clear a height ” any height ” and he was virtually assured of the gold. But if Clay didn’t clear any height, not only would he not win the gold, he wouldn’t win any medal at all.
So when Clay didn’t enter the pole vault until 15 feet, 5 inches, many thought he was taking an unnecessary chance. But Clay and his coach, 1983 Carson High School graduate Kevin Reid, knew what they were doing.
Not only did Clay clear 15-5, he went on to clear 16-43⁄4 on his way to sealing the gold medal and title as World’s Greatest Athlete early Friday morning.
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Reid said that during the pole vault he was receiving many text messages asking, “When is he (Clay) coming in?”
But Clay also entered the pole vault at 15-5 at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., and there was no sense in making a change.
“He warmed up great,” said Reid about Clay during the pole vault warmups. “When he came in the pole vault is what he’s done all year.”
And there was another good reason why Clay didn’t enter until 15-5. He was using a 16-foot pole made by Carson City’s UCS Spirit, and if he had come in any earlier there was a chance he could knock the bar off with his pole.
Overall, it was a dominating performance by Clay in the two-day competition.
“He put together a great couple of days from start to finish,” Reid said. “If there’s an easy way to do it, that’s what he did. He made it an easy meet on himself.”
During his second day performance, Clay set a season-best for the decathlon in the discus with a mark of 176 feet, 43⁄4 inches. “That was probably the turning point of the day,” Reid said.
And after the pole vault, it was a virtual certainty that Clay would win the gold. “We felt pretty good about things at that point,” Reid said.
Clay also threw a season-best 232-10 in the next to last event, the javelin. After nine events, Clay had built up a 479-point lead with 8,269 points. Dan O’Brien’s American record of 8,891 points was well within reach going the final event, the 1,500 meters.
But after what Reid described as “just a long, drawn out Olympic schedule,” Clay cruised to finish the 1,500 in five minutes, 6.59 seconds.
He finished with 8,791 points. Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus won silver with 8,551 and Cuba’s Leonel Suarez took bronze with 8,527.
Clay is known as a decathlete who comes on strong in the second day, but Reid said that wasn’t always the case.
“He started out being a first-day power, speed guy,” Reid said. “He’s evolved into a very, very strong second-day decathlete.”
Among those who followed the decathlon closely was Reid’s mother, Charlotte Schmidt, who still lives in Carson City.
“It was a great moment for both Bryan and Kevin,” Schmidt said. “I’m almost in tears. I’m very, very proud of both of them. It’s exciting for a hometown boy to do this.”
For his part, Clay said he was ready to win the gold.
“I’ve been telling people that I’m in the best shape of my life, I really am,” Clay was quoted in a USA Track and Field press release.
“I’ve been training incredibly hard. Training’s been going really well. You might not be able to tell by some of the results, but when you take into account everything we’ve had to go through the last two days, I think I did well.
“I’m very pleased with my score, of course I’m pleased with the medal and the title that comes with the medal. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have worked for something for so long, and finally accomplish it, and have my dreams come true.”
Clay was already talking about possibly becoming the first man ever to win medals in the decathlon in three Olympics. He also won silver at the Athens Games in 2004.
“I’m hoping to continue to do this through 2012,” said Clay about London. “I hopefully can get another medal. I don’t know if anybody’s got three medals at the Olympic Games. That’s maybe another goal.”