Bryan Clay's Unlikely Path to Olympic Gold
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
CBN.com -He’s called the world’s greatest athlete.
Bryan Clay out distanced a field of 40 decathletes at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China to win the Olympic gold.
Even though at 5 feet 11, 185 pounds he’s the smallest decathlete in the history of the Olympic Games, Bryan won by one of the largest spreads - 240 points ahead of the nearest competitor. In his newly released autobiography, “Redemption”, Bryan shares while growing up in Hawaii, the Olympics were the furthest thing from his mind.
Bryan: I grew up thinking I was going to work a part time job and surf in the mornings and surf in the evenings, and that was going to be my contribution to the world.
Bryan’s world fell apart when his parents divorced. As he grew up anger and resentment dominated his thoughts and soon he was punching anything that stood in his way.
Bryan: I was self destructive, I was hurting other people, and when iIgot angry it turned into rage so that made things difficult for me growing up.
So I’d go break something, I’d put my head through the bedroom door.
Bryan’s mother tried her best raising her sons. One day she changed her tactics – she became a Christian.
Bryan: I remember this about my mom, she was a prayer warrior.
She prayed especially for her two sons. In time, she remarried and Bryan grew more angry. He was kicked out of school several times for beating up students and even a teacher. The only thing that kept Bryan from completely destroying his life was his love for running.
Bryan: Simply put, the track became my sanctuary.
I remember my high school coach telling me when you enter these gates, leave everything behind. He was like a second father to me, he knew the struggles in my life, my relationship with my mom, with my stepdad, with girls and school, and so he said leave those things at the gate and come in and run and just think about Bryan. And be free of it all. It really was something that I think without I would not be where I am today.
In high school, Bryan excelled in track and field. He was recruited by several division one schools, but decided on a smaller school, Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. There coaches encouraged him to train for the decathlon because Bryan performed well in many events.
But by Bryan’s junior year very little in his track career resembled the path of a future Olympian.
Bryan: I was screwing things up again. I was getting in trouble for partying in school, I wasn’t doing well in my classes, I wasn’t doing well at track.
Bryan wasn’t doing well with his then girlfriend, and now wife, Sarah either. She wanted a relationship with God, where Bryan showed little interest. So she broke up with him, but still had hope that he could change.
Sarah: I vividly remember praying every day for him the rest of that summer that God would get a hold of him, get a hold of his heart and just make him into the man that He wanted him to be.
Bryan: I started looking at my life and thinking I wasn’t happy, with any kind of success I had and it really wasn’t much, I wasn’t happy.
So Bryan did what he always saw his mom do – he started reading the Bible and going to church. Bryan’s relationship with God began to grow.
Then, at a track meet, an old girl friend told him she had a sexually transmitted disease and he could have one too. Bryan was terrified and let God know how he felt.
Bryan: How dare you take all this away from me now. Sarah will never marry me, will I be able to have kids, is this what I’m going to be known for, will this be my struggle all my life, I’m doing everything you told me to do, I’m rededicating my life to you, I’m reading my bible, I’m praying, I’m doing everything I’m suppose to be doing. And I remember laying on my floor and god speaking to me, how dare you Bryan just because you giving me your life now you don’t have to face the consequences of decisions you made previously. And I remember how that made me feel. It was one of those piercing feelings. I felt dumb and selfish, and that was the turning point for me. That’s when I decided I gave my life wholeheartedly not because of my parents, or because of Sarah or anything else going on, but I gave my life to Christ and I said I’m going to live differently from here on out.
Bryan was relieved to learn he had a clean bill of health. He and Sarah married and started a family. In 2004, Bryan made the Olympic team, went to Athens and won the silver. Then in 2008, he clinched the gold, realizing the years of training and his mother’s prayers.
Bryan: I would never had imagined, really, if you asked my mom and she believed it more than any of us, never would imagine that life would be as it is now. It just blows my mind, I have been so blessed, so blessed.
The gold medal has brought much more than his picture on a cereal box, or even his numerous endorsements.
Bryan: All of a sudden I have a platform to say, yes, look at the faithfulness of God in my life. I didn’t get here alone, this is where I started, this is how I got here, and they would find God in this and see that He does exist.
That’s why I go after a third Olympic gold medal, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to get that but I do it knowing that god has purpose for my life to share that testimony and hope that people see God is real and see the faithfulness of God in my life.
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