BY ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
EUGENE, Ore. — Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay says he won’t pursue a spot on the Olympic team in London after faltering at the U.S. track trials.
Clay stumbled in the 110-meter hurdles then struggled in the discus during last weekend’s multi-event competition, finishing in 12th place.
Track’s national governing body allows for the top three finishers in each event at the trials to earn a spot on the U.S. team, provided they have the “A” standard required to compete in the Olympics.
Because only two U.S. decathletes had the standard — trials winner Ashton Eaton and runner-up Trey Hardee — only two spots on the team were filled. That led to some speculation that Clay might go for the standard at some point before the July 8 deadline set by the International Olympic Committee, and appeal to USA Track and Field for a place on the team.
Fans even started an online campaign to persuade Clay to chase the standard.
In a statement released by Clay on Tuesday, an off-day for the trials at Hayward Field, he said his love of the sport compelled him to “preserve its integrity.”
“For this reason, and though it pains me, I believe that the USATF Committee’s decision to take only two decathletes to London is the right one. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the sport to keep the integrity of the rules in place, and to support and uphold the decisions of the USATF Committee,” his statement said.
Clay was the gold medalist in the Beijing Games, becoming the first American to win the event since Dan O’Brien in 1996.
His finish at the trials dashed hopes of a rare U.S. sweep in the Olympics. Up-and-comer Eaton and reigning world champion Hardee, along with Clay, were considered the early favorites going into the London Games.
Eaton set a world record in the event at the trials with 9,039 points. Hardee finished second with 8,383 and Clay Horn — who also didn’t have the “A” standard of 8,200 points this season — was third with 7,954. Clay wound up with 7,092 points.
“Ultimately, what we come back to is that the fairest way to select the team is to have the athletes select themselves,” USATF spokeswoman Jill Geer said following the competition. “U.S. talent is so deep in most events that for someone to pick even one spot on the team would be unfair to most athletes.”
This past Saturday, Clay was initially disqualified in the 110-meters for two actions — he knocked over a hurdle with his hand and did not attempt the final hurdle. His coach appealed and his score was eventually reinstated.
Clay continued with the remaining events while the appeals were considered. But he was hurt when he fouled all three of his discus throws, leading to zero points in the event and taking him out of the running.
The outcome Saturday was reminiscent of 1992, when O’Brien and Dave Johnson were expected to battle in Barcelona — a competition fueled by a Reebok advertising campaign. But O’Brien did not make the Olympic team after failing to clear a single height in the pole vault at the trials in New Orleans.
“The last few days have been quite emotional for me and I want to again thank my family, friends and sponsors for all their support,” Clay said in his statement. “I hope to continue to make a positive impact on the sport that I love, both on and off the track, and am I excited for what the future holds.”
Clay said he would be in London to support the U.S. Olympic Committee, represent his sponsors and cheer the decathlon.
“Let me assure you that I intend to be the loudest and most fervent supporter of both Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee,” he wrote. “I expect a gold and silver medal, and perhaps another world record.”