>> For profiles on three more athletes heading to Beijing (and the training programs that got them there), pick up the September issue of M&F, on newsstands August 4.

Bryan Clay is the greatest athlete in the world. While that might strike some people like a javelin through the thigh, the rest are left wondering: Who? Let us elaborate.

Clay, a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics, is the best American decathlete since Dan O’Brien, which means he does 10 events — 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 10 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 meters — better than most people ever do one, even on their best day in Reebok Pump Graffles. In July, at the Olympic trials, he earned a trip to Beijing with the highest score by an American in 12 years, 8832 points, and is the betting favorite to bring home a gold for Team USA.

M&F: When did you learn that you had an aptitude for the decathlon?

Bryan Clay: The first decathlon I actually trained for and did well in was in college.

M&F: What were you doing in high school that made people think you would be a good decathlete?

BC: Azusa Pacific was the only school recruiting me as a decathlete. A lot of people were recruiting me as a sprinter and a jumper. I ran 10.50 in the 100 out of high school, which isn’t very fast now, but back then 10.50 was okay. I ran 21.40 in the 200, and I long jumped 24.6 ½ feet. I was a two-meter high jumper, too. I did a lot of different events and that got me in the mindset of doing multiple events.

M&F: Does your performance at the Olympic trails make you the best decathlete in America?

BC: At the moment, yes. The last time I scored that high was in 2004 (Clay scored 8820 at the Olympic games in Athens). That was the highest score to get second place in any decathlon competition, let alone the Olympic games. Anyone who had scored that high had either won gold or set a world record. I lost by 70 points to Roman Sebrle, who was the new world record holder at the time.

M&F: Where do you fall on the all-time decathlon list?

BC: Currently, I’m the second highest scorer in U.S. history in the decathlon, and the second highest scored in U.S. history in the heptathlon. In both events the only person who has scored higher than me has been Dan O’Brien.

M&F: Who are your main competitors outside the U.S.?

BC: There’s the bronze medalist from 2004, Dimitri Karpov. There’s a new kid, Andrei Krauchanka, from Belarus that’s doing very well. Of course, you can never count out Roman Sebrle, who’s the world record holder. There’s always someone.

M&F: Which day of the two-day event is your strongest? (Day one: 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400 meters. Day two: 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 meters.)

BC: It’s hard to say which day is better. I’m pretty average both days, but if you’re looking at statistics, I think my second day lines up as the better day. My first day is still pretty good, too.

M&F: What’s your strongest event?

BC: It’s hard to say. I hold the world record in the decathlon discus, but I also throw 70 meters in the javelin. My shot put is very strong for my size, too, and I think I have the fastest time in the world, of the decathletes, in the 100 meters. If I had to pick one, I would say the discus just because of the fact that I’ve thrown the farthest in that.

M&F: Of all the events you do, is there one you could be an Olympian in by itself?

BC: I don’t know if I could be an Olympian, but I might be able to compete ‘open’ in the long jump. I would love to do the 100, but guys are running so incredible fast these days it’s just ridiculous.

M&F: Do you tend to be smaller than the other decathletes?

BC: Not tend to be…I am the smallest, at the international level. I don’t know if this is true or not, but for my height and size, I’ve probably scored the highest for decathletes under six feet.

M&F: How do you train for all these events?

BC: I’m in the weight room and on the track all year long. My whole training regimen is planned out on paper for the year. I know when I’m going to peak, when I’m going to be training hard and when my body will be broken down, and when it’s going to be feeling good.

M&F: What do you do in the weight room?

BC: I do a lot of bench and cleans and squats. I do some push presses, snatches and deadlifts. There’s a core workout I go through with medicine balls, and I do jump squats with weight on my back. We have three or four phases we work through depending on what time of year it is.

M&F: Pain must be a regular part of your life?

BC: On a daily basis. If I could get sponsored by Tylenol or ibuprofen, I’d be all right, because the amount of that stuff I’m using just to keep my body functioning is unbelievable. But it comes with the territory.

M&F: Do you keep going after Beijing?

BC: I don’t know what my body is going to do, but I’d like to try to compete at the next Olympics. It all depends on whether I’m making money and I’m able to provide for my family. That will be the deciding factor in whether I keep going.

>> For more information on Bryan Clay, visit the official site of USA Track and Field at www.usatf.org.

>> For info on other U.S. athletes, go to www.usolympicteam.com.

>> For Olympic schedules, rosters and start times, visit www.enbeijing2008.cn.

>> For NBC’s Olympic coverage, head over to www.nbcolympics.com.