Clay, Brown Trafton win 2008 Jesse Owens Awards


Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field

INDIANAPOLIS - Olympic gold medalists Bryan Clay and Stephanie Brown Trafton on Tuesday were named winners of the 2008 Jesse Owens Award by USA Track & Field. This marks the first time in their careers that Clay and Brown Trafton have earned this prestigious distinction.

Established in 1981, the Jesse Owens Award is USA Track & Field's highest accolade, presented annually to the outstanding U.S. male and female track and field performers. This year's awards will be presented on Saturday, December 6 at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held at the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno, Nevada, in conjunction with USA Track & Field's 2008 Annual Meeting.

"All of us at USA Track & Field take great pride in saluting Bryan and Stephanie for their accomplishments during the 2008 season," said USATF CEO Doug Logan. "Their focus and determination, and their unwillingness to settle for anything less than gold, epitomize the best qualities we can hope for in our athletes. We congratulate them on their performances and wish them continued success in 2009."

Clay golden in 2008

Entering 2008 as the defending Olympic silver medalist, Bryan Clay left no doubt that he is the leading force in the men's decathlon this year, posting the two highest scores in the world in winning at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., and the Olympic Games in Beijing. Over two days at the Olympic Trials, Clay scored 8,832 points to break the previous Olympic Trials record of 8,726 set by Dan O'Brien in 1996, the year O'Brien won Olympic gold. Clay's score was a personal best, the best by an American in 16 years, and the best in the world in four years.

At the Olympic Games, Clay led after every event and entered the tenth and final event of the two-day competition, the 1,500 meters, with a whopping 479 point lead over his closest pursuer. Although it is far from his favorite event, Clay endured the 1,500m grind through the accumulated fatigue of two days of competition to finish in 5:06.59 for 522 points, bringing his winning total to 8,791 and becoming the first U.S. gold medalist in the event since Dan O'Brien in 1996. He finished the competition 240 points clear of the field, which is the largest winning margin in the Olympic decathlon since 1972.

Clay was also dominant indoors, winning the 2008 World Indoor Championship heptathlon gold medal with a personal-best 6,371 points. The gold adds to his two World Indoor silvers from 2004 and 2006.

"I have always regarded Jesse Owens with the highest respect for his accomplishments in the 1936 Olympics," said Clay. "To be selected to receive this award and having my name associated with the legendary Jesse Owens is a great honor and a humbling experience. I am grateful, appreciative and truly humbled to have been chosen for such an esteemed award."

Brown Trafton shocks the world

A 2004 Olympian who has never won a national title in the women's discus, Stephanie Brown Trafton, who finished third at this year's Olympic Trials, was not expected to challenge for a spot on the podium at the 2008 Olympic Games.

Once in Beijing, Brown Trafton qualified for the final and took the lead with her initial throw of 64.74 meters/212 feet five inches, which was less than five feet off her personal best. No one in the Olympic field was able to answer that performance, and Brown Trafton became the first American woman to win the gold medal in the discus since Lillian Copeland in 1932. It was the first U.S. medal of any kind in this event since Leslie Jean Deniz won silver in the boycott-afflicted 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Brown Trafton, who posted three of the top four marks by an American in 2008, showed signs of her future Beijing success on May 8 in Salinas, Calif., when she unleashed a personal best throw of 66.17 meters/217 feet 1 inch. It was an effort that ended as the third-best throw in the world in 2008. During the 2008 campaign, Brown Trafton also won at the Nike Prefontaine Classic (63.50m/208-4), La Jolla (64.32m/211-0), Maui (64.05m/210-1), Palo Alto (63.30m/207-9) and Modesto (63.29m/207-7).

Brown Trafton makes history again by becoming the first ever women's thrower to be presented with the Jesse Owens Award.

"The success I have had this year has been monumental and much appreciation goes to USATF's High Performance programs and their willingness to support my event area that, before 2008, had not won any medals in two decades," said Brown Trafton. "The coaches, committee members, staff, and media team at USATF can take credit for their role in making history with me this year as well as helping to securing a bright future for the sport."

About the Jesse Owens Award

2008 Jesse Owens Award winners were selected in balloting of members of the U.S. track and field media. Other finalists for the men's Jesse Owens Award were Walter Dix, LaShawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor. Women's finalists were Shalane Flanagan, Hyleas Fountain, Lolo Jones, Sanya Richards and Jenn Stuczynski.

The permanent commemorative Jesse Owens Award is maintained at USATF National Headquarters, and a replica is provided to each of the winners. Previous winners are Edwin Moses (1981), Carl Lewis (1982 and 1991), Mary Decker (1983), Joan Benoit (1984), Willie Banks (1985), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986 and 1987), Florence Griffith Joyner (1988), Roger Kingdom (1989), Lynn Jennings (1990), Kevin Young (1992), Gail Devers (1993, 1996), Michael Johnson (1994, 1995, 1996), Allen Johnson (1997), Marion Jones (1997, 1998), John Godina (1998, 2001), Inger Miller (1999), Maurice Greene (1999), Stacy Dragila (2000 and 2001), Angelo Taylor (2000), Khalid Khannouchi (2002), Deena Kastor (2003), Tom Pappas (2003), Justin Gatlin (2004 and 2005), Joanna Hayes (2004), Allyson Felix (2005 and 2007); Sanya Richards (2006), Jeremy Wariner (2006), Tyson Gay (2007), Bryan Clay (2008) and Stephanie Brown Trafton (2008).

For full biographies of Clay and Brown Trafton, visit the Athlete Bios section of