Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

78. Brian Clay

United States
Age: 28

Clay, America's top decathlete, grew up in Hawaii. But his youth was no paradise. His parents divorced, and his mom needed food stamps to help raise him. Clay acted out, getting into fights almost every day, even setting off fireworks in a school bathroom. It took 10 events to set him straight. Clay quickly rose through the decathlon ranks, and followed up his silver medal showing in Athens with a world title a year later. In Beijing he'll go toe to toe, pole vault to pole vault, javelin to javelin with the Czech Republic's outstanding Roman Sebrle, the defending Olympic and world champion. Clay's least favorite decathlon event? It's the No. 10, the 1,500m run. "Ah, you're just completely drained, you're running on fumes, and you have to get everything powered up for one last hurrah," he says. "It's a tough one."