World-champion decathlete Dan O'Brien knows what he’s talking about when it comes to Olympic track and field.
Back in 1992, O'Brien was one of America's most heralded athletes, with a 1991 world championship win setting him up for what looked to be a spectacular performance at the Barcelona Olympics.
But he never got there. At the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials in New Orleans, O'Brien failed the pole vault in heartbreaking fashion, all but ending his chances to claim a gold—and setting him up for even more immense pressure to win four years later.
Using his earlier failure as motivation, O’Brien trained harder than ever for the 1996 Olympics—and it paid off. When the torch was finally lit in Atlanta, O'Brien completely dominated the decathlon, leading throughout the competition in points and entering the final day of competition with a stunning 124-point lead.
O'Brien's gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics was America's first decathlon medal since 1976, and his performance marked an American decathlon record that stood for over two decades until it was broken by Ashton Eaton, who now owns the world record in the event as well.
Following his distinguished career in athletics, O’Brien has continued to work with USA Track & Field (USATF), serving as a brand ambassador and as a broadcaster for events. O’Brien sees big things ahead for USATF at the Rio Games, especially after the group brought home 29 total medals from London in 2012.
“My feeling is the US track team is going to show up—and they're going to show up big,” O’Brien says. “We're going to win medals in areas that we typically, or historically, haven't won medals in.”
O’Brien has a point: The USATF team is stacked with rock stars and elite athletes like Eaton (decathlon), Aries Merritt (hurdles), Allyson Felix (sprints), Sanya Richards-Ross (sprints), Justin Gatlin (sprints), Tyson Gay (sprints), Marquis Dendy (long jump), and Matthew Centrowitz (distance).
Men’s Fitness caught up with O’Brien ahead of the Olympics to speak about his expectations for USATF at Rio, how he overcame his own obstacles, and how he continues to stay in shape.
Read the interview with Dan O’Brien on the next page >>>