NEW YORK (AP) — Two decades after Dan and Dave, how does Clay and Trey sound?
One American is the reigning Olympic champion, another the defending world champ. An event that once produced household names in the United States has faded from the forefront in recent years. But as the 2012 London Games near, the success and story lines have returned to again add cachet to the title of “world’s greatest athlete.”
Bryan Clay won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the first American to do since Dan O’Brien — yes, that Dan — in 1996. Then Trey Hardee won worlds the following year, when an injury kept Clay from competing.
Doesn’t hurt that the names rhyme — though young Ashton Eaton threw in a wrinkle when he set the heptathlon world record at last year’s NCAA Indoor championships.
“I feel like I’m coming into the decathlon, or just the multi-events in general, that is getting a lot of hype,” Eaton said Wednesday. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of that, because maybe decathlon didn’t have so much hype awhile ago.”
The three Americans will square off in a three-event competition Friday at the Millrose Games, taking on the 60-meter dash, high jump and shot put at the storied indoor meet at Madison Square Garden.
Clearly comfortable in the spotlight, the trio joked about how advertisers could combine their names, a la “Brangelina.” Somebody suggested “Clay, Trey and A.” would work just fine.
All three are sponsored by Nike, and they share the same agent, seemingly clearing the way for joint endorsements. Clay has proposed they train together, though he concedes the logistics probably aren’t feasible for now. Occasionally working together for a week or two might be more likely.
And when the 31-year-old Clay retires — perhaps as soon as after the London Games — he’d like to coach his two younger countrymen.
“I think we’re the strongest team in the world and I’m standing up here with two of the best athletes in the world,” Hardee said. “It’s just going to, over the next two years, bring out really, really amazing things from each of us.
“We’re just going to push each other to score higher and higher and hopefully come away with a couple medals at the next couple world championships and Olympic Games.”
With their varied backgrounds, ages and builds, the three would be easy to tell apart in an ad campaign. Clay is listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds. The 23-year-old Eaton is 6-1, 185. Hardee, who’s about to turn 27, is 6-5, 210.
Only Clay is old enough to remember those “Dan and Dave” commercials. Before the 1992 Barcelona Games, Reebok revved up the hype machine to promote the rivalry between champion American decathletes O’Brien and Dave Johnson. The only problem was O’Brien failed to make the Olympic team.
Johnson won bronze, then O’Brien came back to capture gold four years later.
Clay would have no reservations if Nike tried to create another made-for-TV American decathlon rivalry.
“We all thought it was great,” he said. “But on a corporate level and on a marketing level, there’s a lot of companies that to this day still look at that as a gigantic failure. In my mind, I’m like, why is it a failure? You sold millions of shoes. You had the entire country tuning into this one thing. And it was real life. It was true.”
A year-and-a-half before the Olympics, it’s still too early to know who will be deemed the pre-games darlings.
“With London 2012 ahead, we expect that consumers will see more of them and our other top Nike athletes featured in future campaigns,” Nike spokesman Derek Kent wrote in an e-mail.
Clay has talked to Bruce Jenner, famous for his 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medal long before becoming a reality TV star, about how timing is everything. Maybe the time will be right in 2012. Clay notes it will be the 20-year anniversary of “Dan and Dave” and the 100-year anniversary of the king of Sweden proclaiming Jim Thorpe the world’s greatest athlete.
“If anybody can create a superstar, Nike can,” Clay said.
First, the Americans need to perform like superstars at this summer’s world championships.
“We’ll be well on our way to 2012,” Clay said, “and hopefully doing some pretty amazing things and come back with maybe setting some historical things there, with possibly a 1-2-3 — who knows?”