The World’s Greatest Athlete Featured

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The World’s Greatest Athlete

How Olympic Decathlete’s Japanese Heritage Led Him to Gold

Bryan Ezra Tsumoru Clay is an Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist, three-time World Champion, and four-time U.S. National Champion in the decathlon, ultimately earning himself the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” at the 2008 Olympics. Clay was born in Austin, Texas to a Japanese mother and an African-American father who divorced when he was in elementary school. Raised in Hawaii, he moved to California after high school and eventually became a standout athlete on the Azusa Pacific University track team. Clay discussed his entrepreneurial ventures and his African-American/Japanese heritage with Tokyo Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Anthony Al-Jamie.

TJ: Can you tell us how your business Eat The Frog Fitness came about?
Essentially, ETF Fitness has been a huge passion of mine and I love it. The problem I see with group fitness today is that there is a one-size-fits-all approach. Trainers say, “All of you are going to do this workout.” The problem is — one person might want to go to the Olympics, one person might want to run a mile or a 5k, I might want to lose 10 pounds, and another person might want to get stronger. But we’re told that if everybody does the same workout, we’re all going to achieve our fitness goals. I challenged myself and began to wonder, “Can we do group fitness in a way that allows us to write personalized plans for individuals to help them reach their goals?” I went back to my track background and my planning background and said, “Absolutely we can.” It’s a franchise. ETF stands for Eat The Frog — based on a famous quote by Mark Twain, which I’m going to paraphrase as, “If your job is to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”

TJ: Who are some of the people who helped guide you in your career?
I was able to meet some really successful track and field athletes — Carl Lewis and Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn. Caitlyn would always say, “Bryan, I capitalized on one gold medal better than anybody else in history.” I would respond, “How in the world did you do that?” And she would give me advice. Carl would also give me tips.

TJ: Can you tell us about your ethnic background?
I was raised very Japanese. I ate ozoni for New Year’s, and we had stuff like sashimi and sushi every day. We had rice with every single meal. One of the earliest things I remember was my grandfather teaching me how to sweep, and if you’ve ever lived in a Japanese family, you understand that there’s a very specific way that you do things. I grew up with this attention to detail and this expectation for excellence. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I got older and I got into the world, I realized people don’t operate that way. I was like, “What is wrong with you people? How do you walk away with the sheet folded and crooked? It should be straight, neat and nice!” It had a profound impact on how I trained; I was a perfectionist at whatever I did. The other thing that I love about Japanese culture is the importance of family. I think the African-American side played a role as well, but I wasn’t around it as much. I think having to understand different ethnicities, different styles of living, and different types of food have made me mixed. I’m not just one culture.

TJ: Your achievements in the world of sports are phenomenal. Do you have any dreams you haven’t fulfilled?
One of my biggest dreams is that my kids will want to be like me. I never grew up thinking, “I want to be like my dad,” and it hurts me to even say that because I know that that’s probably something my biological dad and my stepfather would love to hear me say. In my life there was a lot of turmoil, and yet there are so many kids out there who face the same thing. They don’t get to say, “I want to be like my dad.” So it would mean a lot to me, and I hope that I’ve done a good enough job that when my kids get older, they will say that. That doesn’t mean they have to want to go to the Olympics. But hopefully, they are able to see how much I love them, how I try to care for them, how much I love their mom, and how much I try to care for their mom. I hope they are able to say, “Those are things I want to do like my dad.” If I can do that, then everything that I’ve had to go through, everything that I’ve tried to teach myself, and all the things I’ve created, like businesses, would be absolutely worth it.


The complete article can be found in Issue #280 of the Tokyo Journal.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.

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