The Decathlon Champion is one athlete that captivates the world's imagination. As the embodiment of diversity, perseverance and commitment, the decathlete is not only a symbol of his sport but also humanity. The event's icons of the past, Bill Toomey, Rafer Johnson and Bruce Jenner, all fulfilled the demands their stardom created. Dan O'Brien is clearly the next legacy of the American Decathlon.
The world took note of Dan O'Brien and his immense talent after he won the Decathlon in the 1991 United States Track and Field National Championships. Entering the meet fit and injury free, Dan proceeded to dominate each of his ten disciplines. In this competition he shattered the renowned Bruce Jenner’s fifteen year old American record and restored America’s supremacy in an event it once dominated.
The 1992 World Championships only affirmed that Dan’s stellar performance at the U.S. Nationals was not a fluke. The swiftness and power he displayed while mastering his events in the two day competition prompted Daley Thompson, the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Decathlon Champion, to state during his BBC commentary that Dan is bigger, faster and stronger than he ever was. From this World Championship victory, Dan O'Brien signaled that he was the man to beat in the decathlon.
The truest test of both a man and an athlete is his ability to overcome adversity. In 1992, Dan displayed the depth of his character. After failing to make the Olympic team, he was faced with the decision of ending his season and watching his rivals at the Olympics or preparing for a showdown with his competitors in the post Olympic Deca Star Decathlon in Talence, France. Not looking back, Dan traveled to Talence ready to set a World Record.
At the Deca Star and with enough drama behind him, Dan steadily went to work on the task at hand. Beaming with the confidence and poise he displayed in his banner year of 1991, Dan showed the substance of the American hero he is and defeated the 1992 Olympic Champion, Robert Zmelik, as he went on to set a new Decathlon World Record of 8891 points.
A World Record in the Heptathlon, a Gold Medal at the 1994 Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia and consistent wins at U.S. Nationals made Dan a household name in track and field, over the next few years leading up to the 1996 Olympic Games.
As a three-time World Champion, Dan's determination soared to even greater heights as he prepared for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. As a hands-down favorite, Dan endured two of the most difficult and stressful days of his career. He dominated the competition and earned the sixth highest decathlon point total in history. Through his perseverance, he emerged valiantly, won the gold medal and earned the title of “World's Greatest Athlete.”
After his decisive Olympic victory in Atlanta, Dan was forced to take time off due to injury. His first major competition after the 1996 Olympic Games would be the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York. After two years away from competition, Dan triumphed over injury and doubt. In victory, Dan nearly broke his own world record and proved that he will remain as one of the best decathlon champions in history.
Following his Gold Medal performance at the Goodwill Games, Dan began training for his ultimate goal, a second Olympic Gold Medal in 2000 in Sydney Australia. In 1999, Dan’s seven year World Record was broken after he suffered a few minor injuries and missed competitions. In 2000, Dan turned his focus to the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Sacramento; however, a torn tendon in his left foot prevented him from participating, which unfortunately disqualified him from the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Down but never out, Dan traveled to Sydney as a commentator and is now looking ahead to the future. It’s not yet been determined what the future holds for Dan O'Brien; as a successful athlete, positive role model, talented on-air commentator and endearing personality, the options are certainly many.
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