Clay was born in Austin, Texas and raised in Hawaii. He is Afro-Asian. His mother, Michele Ishimoto, was a Japanese immigrant to America. His father, Greg Clay, was African American. His parents divorced when he was in elementary school and he was raised primarily by his mother.
Clay has a younger brother, Nikolas, who was also a standout athlete on the Azusa Pacific University track team.
On March 23, 2013 Bryan Clay was inducted into the Azusa Pacific Hall of Fame in Track and Field.
He graduated from James B. Castle High School (Kaneohe, Hawaii) in 1998.
Clay is married to Sarah Smith. They have a son, Jacob (born 2005), and two daughters, Katherine (Kate) (born 2007) and Elizabeth (Ellie) (born 2010). Clay believes that a balance of mental, physical, and emotional health will help him in athletic competition.
Clay addressed the 2008 Republican National Convention. Clay is a devoted Christian.
He competed in track and field in high school, during which time he was coached by Dacre Bowen and Martin Hee. He then attended Azusa Pacific University, an Evangelical Christian college near Los Angeles, California, where he competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and was coached by Mike Barnett, who still coaches him. Clay still trains at Azusa Pacific University. Clay decided to compete in the decathlon after persuasion from Olympian Chris Huffins.
Clay won the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, and finished first at the 2005 World Championships. He was unable to complete the 2007 World Championships due to injuries, dropping out after four events.
Clay won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in the decathlon. His victory margin of 240 points in the 2008 Beijing Olympics was the largest since 1972. The Olympic decathlon champion is referred to as the "World's Greatest Athlete" and prior to the Olympics, Clay was tested by SPARQ to establish his SPARQ Rating across a number of different sports. The test is meant to measure sport-specific athleticism and in the football test Clay recorded a score of 130.40, the highest ever recorded up to that point. By comparison, Reggie Bush scored a 93.38 on the popular test.
He is one of two Olympians featured on a special edition post-Beijing Olympics Wheaties cereal box; the other was gymnast Nastia Liukin.
His attempts to regain his World Championships decathlon title were thwarted by a hamstring injury in June 2009. This caused him to drop out of the US trials; thus, he missed the chance to compete at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. He returned to action in 2010 and won the men's heptathlon at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships. At the start of his outdoor season he won the 2010 Hypo-Meeting, holding off the challenge from Romain Barras.
In 2012, Clay had returned to the Olympic Trials in hopes of making a third Olympics and defending his title. Defending the title was a feat only achieved twice, by Bob Mathias and by Daley Thompson. That attempt was quashed at the beginning of the second day, when he tripped over the 9th hurdle in the 110 metres hurdles, then off balance pushed over the 10th hurdles. He was initially disqualified for pushing over the hurdle, but that decision was reversed, allowing him a mark for running 16.81, last in the field over a second and a half slower than the next best competitor. Thinking he had been disqualified in the hurdles, Clay followed the hurdle accident with three straight fouls in the discus throws, but he still completed the competition.2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships - gold medal
Athletics at the 2008 Summer Olympics – Men's decathlon - gold medal
2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships - gold medal
2005 World Championships in Athletics - gold medal
Athletics at the 2004 Summer Olympics – Men's decathlon - silver medal
2004 World Indoor Championships - silver medal
Decathlon - 8832
Decathlon events:100 m - 10.35
400 m - 47.78
110 m hurdles - 13.64
1500 m - 4:38.93
Long jump - 8.06
High jump - 2.10
Pole vault - 5.15
Shot put - 16.27
Discus throw - 55.87 (world decathlon best)
Javelin throw - 72.00
Others:60 m - 6.65
60 m hurdles - 7.77
200 m - 21.34
1000 m - 2:49.41
Heptathlon - 6371
Clay endorsed John McCain for President in 2008.