Dan O'Brien

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For other people named Dan O'Brien, see Dan O'Brien (disambiguation).
Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brian-edit.jpg
O'Brien in 2009
Personal information
Full name Daniel Dion O'Brien[1]
Born (1966-07-18) July 18, 1966 (age 49)[1]
Portland, Oregon, U.S.[2]
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)[1][2]
Weight 185 lb (84 kg)[1][2]
Website danobrien.com
Country United States of America
Sport Track & Field
Event(s) Decathlon
College team University of Idaho

Daniel Dion "Dan" O'Brien (born July 18, 1966) is an American athlete. A decathlete, his 1990s achievements in the decathlon included the winning of an Olympic gold medal in 1996, and, previous to that, three consecutive titles at the World Championships in Athletics.

Early life[edit]

Dan O'Brien is of African American and Finnish heritage[3][dead link] and grew up as an adopted child in an Irish-American family in Klamath Falls, Oregon. He graduated from Henley High School in 1984 and the University of Idaho, where he competed in track and field for the Vandals.

After initially flunking out of the university and then incurring legal difficulties, O'Brien attended Spokane Falls Community College, a community college in Spokane, Washington in 1988. He returned to the UI to compete for the Vandal track team and complete his bachelor's degree.[4][5]

O'Brien trained for his Olympic and world championships under Idaho's track coach, Mike Keller.[5][6][7] He took second place at the Goodwill Games in Seattle in 1990.[8]



As the 1991 World champion in the decathlon, O'Brien entered the Olympic year of 1992 as the favorite to win the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, and being proclaimed as the "world's greatest athlete". However, during the U.S. Olympic Trials, held at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans in late June 1992, O'Brien had a disaster in the 8th event, the Pole Vault. After passing at the first four (lower) heights, O'Brien entered the competition at 15 feet 9 inches, and failed to clear the bar on all three attempts. As a result, he scored no points and dropped from first place to 12th place among the 24 decathletes. 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.

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. O'Brien appeared with U.S. rival Dave Johnson in a popular TV advertising campaign for Reebok. The series of commercials, entitled "Dan & Dave," were meant to build interest in Reebok and the decathletes, culminating in the Olympics in Barcelona. His 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.

In September 1992 he set a world record of 8,891 points,[9] at a decathlon competition held in Talance, France on 4 and 5 September 1992. O'Brien's marks were as follows: 100 Meters 10.43 seconds (with a tailwind); Long Jump 26ft 6 1/4 inches (8.08 meters); Shot Put 54ft 9 1/4 inches (16.69m); High Jump 6ft 9 1/2 inches (2.07m); 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 159ft 4 inches (48.56m); Pole Vault 16ft 4 3/4 inches (5.00 meters); Javelin 205 feet 4 inches (62.58m); 1,500 Meters Run 4 minutes 42.10 seconds = total 8891 points). This stood as the American Record for nearly 20 years, until it was broken by Ashton Eaton on 22-23 June 2012 at the U.S. Olympic Trials held in Eugene, Oregon. Dan O'Brien was in attendance in Eugene and congratulated Eaton shortly after he completed the 1500 Meters for a new world record of 9,039 points.

Other athletics[edit]

O'Brien broke the world record for the fastest game of hopscotch on Chelsea Piers on May 7, 2009. He established a record of 1 minute and 21 seconds, breaking the old mark by two seconds. [10]

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.[11]

Modeling/Product endorsements[edit]

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


On June 1st 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).

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien has been a resident of the Phoenix area since 1997, relocating from Moscow, Idaho. 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[edit]

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. [12][13]

O'Brien was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, along with Dave Johnson.[14][15] In 2006, he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. And he was inducted into the University of Idaho Sports Hall of Fame with the large inaugural class of 2007.

In 2010, Henley High School honored O'Brien by renaming its football field after the athlete.

In 2012, O'Brien was elected into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.[16]

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, and he was on hand in Moscow in May 2012 to rededicate it.[17][18]


  1. ^ a b c d "Dan O'Brien". sports-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Dan O'Brien". usatf.org. USA Track & Field. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  3. ^ http://famous.adoption.com/famous/obrien-daniel-dion.html
  4. ^ Wagner, Dennis (February 10, 2012). "Failures drove gold medalist Dan O'Brien to new heights". Arizona Republic. 
  5. ^ a b Grummert, Dale (May 21, 1989). "A hard road to glory". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1B. 
  6. ^ "Ex-Idaho's O'Brien winds up second". Lewiston Morning Tribune. June 14, 1990. p. 1B. 
  7. ^ Grummert, Dale (December 30, 1990). "Tribune's top ten sports stories: 6. Dan O'Brien". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 4C. 
  8. ^ Sahlberg, Bert (July 26, 1990). "O'Brien settles for second fiddle - for the time being". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1B. 
  9. ^ Rodman, Bob (June 14, 1993). "O'Brien takes aim at decathlon mark". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 4B. 
  10. ^ Penner, Mike (8 May 2009). "Dan O'Brien hops his way to a world record". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  11. ^ Schulman, Henry (January 10, 2011). "Sandoval said to be working hard, slimmed down". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  12. ^ Johnson, David (August 19, 1996). "O'Brien given hero's welcome". Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1A. 
  13. ^ Roesler, Rich (August 19, 1996). "Thousands honor hometown hero". Spokesman-Review. p. A1. 
  14. ^ "Dan O'Brien - Track and Field". Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 
  15. ^ Brandon, Steve (October 7, 2005). "'Dan and Dave' reunion". Portland Tribune. Retrieved February 23, 2010. 
  16. ^ http://www.usatf.org/News/Devers,-O’Brien,-Temple,-Connolly-selected-to-U-S-.aspx
  17. ^ "O'Brien helps cut the ribbon on revamped track". Go Vandals.com. May 7, 2012. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Dan O'Brien Track Complex Renovation". University of Idaho. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
United Kingdom Daley Thompson
Men's Decathlon World Record Holder
September 5, 1992 – July 4, 1999
Succeeded by
Czech Republic Tomáš Dvořák
Preceded by
France Christian Plaziat
Men's heptathlon world record holder
March 14, 1993 – March 13, 2010
Succeeded by
United States Ashton Eaton