Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brian-edit.jpg
O'Brien in 2009
Personal information
Full nameDaniel Dion O'Brien[1]
Born (1966-07-18) July 18, 1966 (age 56)[1]
Portland, Oregon, U.S.[2]
Height6 ft 2 in (188 cm)[1][2]
Weight185 lb (84 kg)[1][2]
CountryUnited States
SportTrack & Field
College teamUniversity of Idaho
Coached byMike Keller (UI),
Rick Sloan (WSU)

Daniel Dion O'Brien (born July 18, 1966) is an American former decathlete and Olympic gold medalist. He won the Olympic title in 1996, three consecutive world championships (1991, 1993, 1995), and set the world record in 1992.

Early life

O'Brien was born in Portland, Oregon in 1966. He is of African American and Finnish heritage,[3] and grew up as an adopted child in an Irish-American family in Klamath Falls.[4] He attended Henley High School graduating in 1984. At the Oregon High School State Championships he led his team to a team runner-up finish with O'Brien scoring all points. He earned four individual gold medals winning the 110 meter high hurdles, 300 meter hurdles, long jump and 100 yard dash.[3] He then attended the University of Idaho in Moscow, where he competed in track and field for the Vandals.[5] After initially flunking out of the university and then incurring legal difficulties,[4][6] O'Brien attended Spokane Falls Community College, a community college in Spokane, Washington in 1987-1988.[7] He returned to the UI to compete for the Vandal track team,[5][8] and complete his bachelor's degree.[9][10]

O'Brien trained for his Olympic and world championships on the Palouse under Idaho's track coach Mike Keller,[10][11][12][13] and Rick Sloan of Washington State in neighboring Pullman for the field events.[14][15][16][17][18]

O'Brien competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1988; after a fast time in the 100 meters, he was injured in the long jump and withdrew.[19] He took second place at the Goodwill Games in Seattle in 1990, behind Dave Johnson.[20]



As the 1991 world champion, O'Brien entered the Olympic year of 1992 as the favorite to win gold in the decathlon in Barcelona and be proclaimed as the "world's greatest athlete." However, during the U.S. Olympic Trials at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans in late June, O'Brien had a disaster in the eighth event, the pole vault. After passing at the first four (lower) heights, O'Brien entered the competition at 15 ft 9 in (4.80 m), and failed to clear the bar on all three attempts. As a result, he scored no points and dropped from first to eleventh place among the 24 decathletes.[21][22] He did not make the Olympic team for Barcelona, but he continued to train for the competition held in France a few weeks after the Olympics ended.[23]

O'Brien's "no height" in the pole vault was also a financial embarrassment for his main corporate sponsor, and for NBC television which was heavily promoting the upcoming Olympics. He appeared with U.S. rival Dave Johnson, the Goodwill Games champion, in a popular TV advertising campaign for Reebok.[24] The series of commercials, entitled "Dan & Dave," were meant to build interest in Reebok and the decathletes, culminating in the Olympics in Barcelona.[25] O'Brien's unexpected failure in New Orleans received considerable attention; Reebok adjusted by running new ads featuring him cheering on Dave, who went on to win the bronze medal.

O'Brien regrouped and set a world record of 8,891 points in early September in Talence, France.[26][27][28][29] His marks were as follows: 100 meters in 10.43 seconds (with a tailwind); Long Jump 26 ft 6¼ in (8.08 m); Shot Put 54 ft 9¼ in (16.69 m); High Jump 6 ft 9½ in (2.07 m); 400 meters 48.51 seconds, for a first day total of 4,720 points; Day two 110 Meter High Hurdles in 13.98 seconds; Discus 159 ft 4 inches (48.56m); Pole Vault 16 ft 4¾ in (5.00 m); Javelin 205 ft 4 in (62.58m); 1,500 meter run in 4 minutes 42.10 seconds = total 8,891 points).

This stood as the world record until 1999,[30] and the American record for nearly twenty years, until Ashton Eaton broke it in 2012 at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. O'Brien was in attendance at Hayward Field and congratulated Eaton shortly after he completed the 1500 meters for a new world record of 9,039 points.[31]

At the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, O'Brien won the gold medal with 8,824 points, 118 ahead of runner-up Frank Busemann of Germany.[32][33][34] After a break from competition, he won the Goodwill Games title in 1998, held east of New York City on Long Island, his eleventh consecutive win since 1992.[35] A plantar fascia injury to his left foot in July 2000, shortly before the U.S. Olympic Trials, caused his withdrawal and he did not defend his title.[36][37] Injuries continued and prevented his return to the Olympic trials in 2004.[38]

Other athletics

O'Brien broke the world record for the fastest game of hopscotch on Chelsea Piers on May 7, 2009. He established a record of 81 seconds, breaking the old mark by two seconds.[39]

Shortly following the 2010 MLB season, O'Brien began working with San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, in an effort to help the struggling slugger lose weight.[40]

Modeling/Product endorsements

In the late 1990s, Dan O'Brien appeared in ads for Italian designer Versace.


On June 1, 2012, O'Brien released a book which was co-written with Brad Botkin, "Clearing Hurdles: The Quest to Be The World's Greatest Athlete" (ISBN 978-1935628088).


O'Brien and Dave Johnson are the subject of (and participants in) the ESPN Radio 30 for 30 podcast "The Trials of Dave and Dan" [1]

Personal life

O'Brien has been a resident of the Phoenix area since 1997,[41] relocating from northern Idaho.[42][43] He owns Gold Medal Acceleration, a gym in Scottsdale, is a volunteer track coach at ASU, and does commentary for track and field events on television.

Honors and awards

O'Brien won the Olympic gold medal for decathlon at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and also won gold medals at the 1991, 1993, and 1995 World Championships in Athletics.

Shortly after his gold medal performance at the 1996 Olympics, O'Brien was honored with "Dan O'Brien Day" by the state of Idaho and a parade by the city of Moscow in mid-August.[43][44][45][46]

O'Brien was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, along with Dave Johnson.[47][48] He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2006, the University of Idaho Sports Hall of Fame with the large inaugural class of 2007, and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 2012.[49]

A street in Klamath Falls was named for him 1996,[50][51][52] and Henley High School honored O'Brien by renaming its football field after the athlete in 2010.

The University of Idaho's outdoor track and field venue was named for O'Brien in 1996. The complex underwent a $2.5 million renovation in 2011–12,[53][54] and he was on hand in Moscow in May 2012 to rededicate it.[55][56]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Dan O'Brien". sports-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Dan O'Brien". usatf.org. USA Track & Field. Archived from the original on 4 November 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Daniel Dion O'Brien". Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved September 7, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Murray, Jim (April 29, 1992). "He had a thirst, just like Thorpe". Eugene Register-Guard. (Los Angeles Times). p. 1B.
  5. ^ a b Blanchette, John (May 15, 1989). "O'Brien qualifies for Big Sky 200". Spokesman-Review. p. C4.
  6. ^ Drape, Joe (May 5, 1996). "O'Brien finds himself bigger obstacle than decathlon". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. South Carolina. Cox News Service. p. D8.
  7. ^ Blanchette, John (May 28, 1988). "O'Brien powers CCS". Spokesman-Review. p. B5.
  8. ^ Blanchette, John (May 19, 1989). "UI's O'Brien, Eastern's Jefferson take center stage at Big Sky meet". Spokesman-Review. p. C3.
  9. ^ Wagner, Dennis (February 10, 2012). "Failures drove gold medalist Dan O'Brien to new heights". Arizona Republic.
  10. ^ a b Grummert, Dale (May 21, 1989). "A hard road to glory". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1B.
  11. ^ "Ex-Idaho's O'Brien winds up second". Lewiston Morning Tribune. June 14, 1990. p. 1B.
  12. ^ Grummert, Dale (August 19, 1990). "Playing the waiting game". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1D.
  13. ^ Grummert, Dale (December 30, 1990). "Tribune's top ten sports stories: 6. Dan O'Brien". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 4C.
  14. ^ Harriman, Peter (July 21, 1990). "A team effort". Idahonian. (Moscow). p. 1D.
  15. ^ Wicks, Grace (May 2, 1992). "Athlete Dan O'Brien a good example". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. (Idaho-Washington). p. 1C.
  16. ^ Blanchette, John (September 9, 1992). "World record gives Dan glory, piece of mind". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. 1C.
  17. ^ Harriman, Peter (March 15, 1993). "The marketing of Dan O'Brien". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. (Idaho-Washington). p. 1B.
  18. ^ Sullivan, Tim (August 17, 1996). "O'Brien's gold medal coaches return to 'real jobs'". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. (Idaho-Washington). p. 1D.
  19. ^ "Lavine in discus finals; O'Brien sidelined". Idahonian. Moscow. July 21, 1988. p. 8A.
  20. ^ Sahlberg, Bert (July 26, 1990). "O'Brien settles for second fiddle - for the time being". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1B.
  21. ^ Anderson, Curtis (June 28, 1992). "The Dan and Dave show is over". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 1E.
  22. ^ "Tragic day at the Trials". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho Washington. June 29, 1992. p. 1C.
  23. ^ Gillespie, Kerry (3 July 2016). "For Damian Warner, four years of training comes to fruition at Rio Olympics in August - Toronto Star". thestar.com. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Dan O'Brien still a hero to hometown hero to fans". Ellensburg Daily Record. Washington. Associated Press. July 25, 1992. p. 6.
  25. ^ Foster, Mary (June 27, 1992). "Will it be Dan or will it be Dave?". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. South Carolina. Associated Press. p. C1.
  26. ^ Rodman, Bob (September 6, 1992). "Dan O'Brien earns decathlon world record". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 1E.
  27. ^ "Definitely Dan's day: O'Brien sets decathlon mark". Observer-Reporter. Washington, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. September 6, 1992. p. C8.
  28. ^ "Dan O'Brien breaks Daley's world record". Reading Eagle. Pennsylvania. news services. September 6, 1992. p. D3.
  29. ^ Rodman, Bob (June 14, 1993). "O'Brien takes aim at decathlon mark". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. p. 4B.
  30. ^ "Dvorak tops O'Brien's world decathlon mark". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Florida. Associated Press. July 5, 1999. p. 2C.
  31. ^ "9039 points! Eaton breaks world record before a home crowd in Eugene". IAAF. June 24, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  32. ^ Baum, Bob (August 2, 1996). "O'Brien buries memories of '92". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. p. 1C.
  33. ^ Powell, Shaun (August 2, 1996). "O'Brien endures to win decathlon". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Newsday). p. 1C.
  34. ^ Ventre, Michael (August 2, 1992). "O'Brien strikes Olympic gold". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. (Los Angeles Daily News). p. 1B.
  35. ^ Rosenthal, Bert (July 21, 1998). "Still the greatest". Ocala Star-Banner. Florida. Associated Press. p. 1D.
  36. ^ Baum, Bob (July 19, 2000). "O'Brien bows out of Olympic trials". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. Associated Press. p. 1B.
  37. ^ "Injured foot to keep O'Brien from trials". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Associated Press. July 19, 2000. p. 7C.
  38. ^ "Injured O'Brien 'officially done' with decathlon". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. July 9, 2004. p. C2.
  39. ^ Penner, Mike (8 May 2009). "Dan O'Brien hops his way to a world record". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  40. ^ Schulman, Henry (January 10, 2011). "Sandoval said to be working hard, slimmed down". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  41. ^ "O'Brien moves to Phoenix". Eugene Register-Guard. wire services. January 25, 1997. p. 2D.
  42. ^ White, Vera (April 14, 1994). "The house that Dan built". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. p. 1A.
  43. ^ a b "Idaho city celebrates Dan O'Brien Day". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. Associated Press. August 19, 1996. p. B2.
  44. ^ Johnson, David (August 19, 1996). "O'Brien given hero's welcome". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1A.
  45. ^ Roesler, Rich (August 19, 1996). "Thousands honor hometown hero". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. A1.
  46. ^ Sullivan, Tim (August 19, 1996). "A hero's homecoming". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. p. 1C.
  47. ^ "Dan O'Brien - Track and Field". Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
  48. ^ Brandon, Steve (October 7, 2005). "'Dan and Dave' reunion". Portland Tribune. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  49. ^ "USA Track & Field - Devers, O'Brien, Temple, Connolly selected to U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame". www.usatf.org. Archived from the original on 2012-05-15.
  50. ^ "Klamath Falls rolls red carpet for O'Brien". Eugene Register-Guard. news services. September 14, 1996. p. 2D.
  51. ^ "O'Brien receives hero's welcome from home town". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Idaho-Washington. Associated Press. September 16, 1996. p. 1C.
  52. ^ Meehan, Jim; Lee, Greg (December 29, 1996). "A year to remember". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C9.
  53. ^ "Dan O'Brien Track and Field Complex". Spokane, Washington: Bernardo Wills Architects. 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  54. ^ "Dan O'Brien Track Complex". University of Idaho. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  55. ^ "O'Brien helps cut the ribbon on revamped track". Go Vandals.com. May 7, 2012. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
  56. ^ Rokyta, Devin (May 8, 2012). "O'Brien returns to Idaho". Orlando Sentinel. Florida. (Moscow-Pullman Daily News). Retrieved July 12, 2016.

External links


  • YouTube – Reebok Commercials - Dan and Dave - 1992
  • YouTube – World Record, from French television broadcast (1992)
  • FloTrack.org – Dan O'Brien reflects (2012)
Preceded by Men's Decathlon World Record Holder
September 5, 1992 – July 4, 1999
Succeeded by
Preceded by Men's heptathlon world record holder
March 14, 1993 – March 13, 2010
Succeeded by