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Dan O' Brien Shares Journey to Olympic Gold, Gives Back to LC Valley Community


Dan O'Brien waves to the crowd after winning his first World Championship in 1991. Courtesy: World Athletics{ }
Dan O'Brien waves to the crowd after winning his first World Championship in 1991. Courtesy: World Athletics
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LEWISTON, ID- Dan O'Brien was deemed the "world's greatest athlete" after winning the 1996 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon.

“Winning the gold medal was certainly something that I dreamt about as a kid," O'Brien said.

"I fell in love with the Olympics in the 1980's when the U.S beat the Russians in hockey, and I thought to myself wouldn’t it be cool to wear that uniform?”

The gold medal wasn’t his only accolade. In1991, he won his first of three World Championships, all thanks to the power of belief.

"At my first world championship I made up my mind that today I'm going to be a world champion and at the end of the day I was," O'Brien said. " I stood in front of thousands of people in that stadium.”

O 'Brien's story is just as much about success as it is failure. He missed out on the Olympics four years earlier by not clearing the bar in the pole vault.

“No lesson was greater to me than losing and not getting a chance to go to the Olympics in 1992 and those Olympic trials," O'Brien said. "It was in my grasp, I thought I was going to go to Barcelona, and win the gold medal. "

"Then I was featured in a bunch of commercials. Dave and I were doing all the Reebok commercials, so not making the Olympic team really stung that year."

When times got tough, he leaned on his support system around him.

"It’s caused me to reflect later on in life, and I realized that my community got me through it. My teammates, my coaches, Moscow, Idaho, Lewiston, Pullman, and Clarkston."

The Oregon native felt right at home on the Palouse, where he was heavily recruited by coach Mike Keller to train at the University of Idaho.

"In the late nineties, nothing could have pulled me out of the Palouse," O'Brien said. "I was where I needed to be. I felt that in my heart."

“I wouldn't have been able to win without my coaches. Rick Sloan from Washington State was a huge part of my success. Mike Keller gave me not one or two chances, but ten, eleven, and twelve chances."

The community has impacted him in more ways than one. So much so that he decided to give back, speaking at the 16th annual Breakfast for Kids event in Lewiston.

He also signed autographs, took photos with kids, and even gave some track and field pointers.

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“If I can come into this community and impact not just kids but reaching the next level, setting goals, and really giving yourself, you know that's what's exciting to me."


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