<
>

Clay quits decathalon worlds after injuring quadriceps muscle

8/31/2007

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, 6¾ 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."