Clay quits decathalon worlds after injuring quadriceps muscle

Updated: August 31, 2007, 7:17 PM ET
Associated Press

OSAKA, Japan -- Bryan Clay applied ice to his injured quadriceps muscle, got a quick massage and even turned to acupuncture.

Nothing helped ease the pain. So the reigning decathlon champion withdrew from the competition at the world track and field championships. He tweaked his right leg while competing in the high jump, the fourth of five events Friday evening.

"It was just too painful," said Clay, who had 3,558 points. "It was going so well, too."

With five events to go in the decathlon, Jamaican Maurice Smith had the lead with 4,525 points. Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan was next at 4,439, and Czech Olympic champion Roman Sebrle had 4,434.

Clay still can't figure out what exactly happened. He hurt his right quadriceps as he went to plant his foot for his second attempt at 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump. He heard a pop and slumped under the bar, falling onto the mat. He limped off the track and didn't return.

"I think my heel may have slipped," he said. "At least I think that's what happened. I really don't know."

After the injury, Clay tried to get ready for the last event of the first night -- the 400 meters. A massage didn't alleviate the knot, neither did the acupuncture. After running to test the leg, then conferring with doctors, he decided it was best to pull out.

"I wanted to keep going," said Clay, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist. "But it just got tighter and tighter. Maybe I could've run the 400. But I would've run it in 52 seconds, and it would've been pointless."

He paused.

"I wanted to perform well here, too," he said.

It was almost like a home meet for Clay. His mother is Japanese, and he painted the distinctive red circle of the rising sun on a white background on both shoulders. The Osaka crowd quickly warmed up to him.

"They were cheering for me. That's why this is disappointing," he said. "Anytime you're in the top part of the pack and having a decent day, it's never an easy decision to pull out. I couldn't do anything about it."

U.S. teammate Tom Pappas felt for Clay.

"He was doing well," said Pappas, who's fifth, 183 points out of the lead. "Hopefully, he's all right, and he'll get healthy quick."

Clay had hoped to find a way to get through the first day, but then he thought about the looming hurdles.

"That would've been tough. I would've struggled," he said. "It was better calling it quits."

He might do that with the season, too, a difficult decision less than 12 months from the Beijing Olympics. Clay has had an injury-plagued season, pulling out of the U.S. championships in June with nagging soreness in his left knee.

"We're going to discuss what we want to do," he said. "It's been a tough season. Do I shut it down and heal up or keep going? We'll see."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press