Only one man, the Olympic Gold Medalist in the decathlon, is officially deemed the World’s Greatest Athlete. As an orphan who has never met his biological parents, as a recovering alcoholic, as the subject of a timelessly infamous advertising campaign, as the athlete of maybe the most publicized and shocking failure in the history of sports, and as a man who persevered through it all to dominate his sport like few athletes ever have, it is no wonder Track & Field News calls Dan O’Brien’s life, the stuff movies are made of. Clearing Hurdles: The Quest to be the World’s Greatest Athlete is Dan’s story.
Dan’s meteoric rise to prominence saw him take the No. 1 world ranking less than two years removed from his only college season, and he became an overnight celebrity when cast alongside Dave Johnson in Reebok’s massive Dan & Dave ad campaign. The commercials debuted during the Super Bowl, but when O’Brien infamously failed to qualify for the Olympic team it was called the most shocking moment in U.S. Olympic history, and to this day ESPN ranks it as one of the all-time sports busts.
Undeterred, O’Brien went on to capture his record-tying fifth national championship in addition to a third consecutive world championship the first decathlete in history to do so. Then at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, with what seemed like an entire country in his corner, O’Brien completed his tale of redemption by becoming the oldest decathlete to ever win an Olympic gold medal.
Now, through the pages of this profoundly inspiring and fast-paced memoir, Dan will chronicle his extraordinary career. Clearing Hurdles also offers a window into the world of the decathlon and an inside look at some of its most influential athletes. O’Brien offers an insiders view of some of the greatest Olympic decathletes — of Bill Toomey the intellectual artist, Milt Campbell the most inspirational, and Bruce Jenner as the man most driven.
Dan O’Brien grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon and is a University of Idaho hall of famer. Today he is the on-field emcee for every major USA Track & Field event, and is both a host and celebrity athlete for USATF’s Win With Integrity program. Dan also works with the United States Olympic Committee as part of its Olympic Ambassador Program, mentoring current athletes. Dan is a motivational speaker, and has worked as both a color commentator and guest analyst for networks such as ESPN, CBS and NBC. He will be part of Yahoo as an analyst for the 2012 Olympic coverage from London. Dan resides with his wife Leilani in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he is entering his seventh year as an assistant coach at Arizona State University.
Brad Botkin is an editor at CBSsports.com and a senior writer at Rylin Media, a sports publishing company that has sold in excess of 500,000 commemorative championship magazines. He is also a consultant and contributing writer for the United States Olympic Committee. Over the years, Brad has worked in both newspapers and magazines as a sports editor while freelancing for various publications.