Adopted at the age of two, and raised in a home with seven other children of racially mixed backgrounds – Dan has overcome many adversities throughout his life. And with a great deal of self-determination and commitment, he has become one of the most successful and dominant athletes in the history of sports. He is an inspirational leader and motivational force for millions of people across the world.
At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Dan O’Brien overcame almost insurmountable odds. Four years prior, on Super Bowl Sunday early in 1992, Reebok introduced its unprecedented Dan & Dave campaign, a series of entertaining TV and print ads featuring Dan and rival Dave Johnson, debating who would take the title as the “World’s Greatest Athlete” in Barcelona.
This publicity also provided for one of the most publicized failures in sports history when Dan “no-heighted” in the pole vault and failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympic team headed for Barcelona. All of Dan’s hard work had come to an end…or had it?
Dan O’Brien has spent his entire life overcoming obstacles. After encouragement from family, friends and coaches, he set new goals and began the journey that eventually established him as the most prolific decathlete in history. Only months after the failure to make the 1992 Olympic team, he set a new World Record at the Deca Star Invitational in Talence, France – defeating the 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist Robert Zmelik. He didn’t stop there. He went on to win the 1993 and 1995 World Championships, the 1994 Goodwill Games, and three US Championships – all leading to the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal in Atlanta.
Today Dan continues to give back to the sport that has given so much to him. He is the on-field emcee for every major USA Track & Field event, and he’s also heavily involved as both a host and celebrity athlete for USATF’s Win With Integrity program, a community outreach and mentoring program designed to help kids make good life decisions, set positive goals and adhere to a drug-free lifestyle.
Dan also works very closely with the United States Olympic Committee as part of its Olympic Ambassador Program, mentoring current athletes in the areas of media training, preparation and peak performance. Dan can also be seen on teamusa.org, where he hosts a Web series called “Can Dan Do It?” In this series, Dan, with the help of a 2012 Olympic hopeful, attempts 28 different Olympic events to see if the World’s Greatest Athlete, can, in fact, excel in any sport.
Dan has become a highly sought motivational speaker, bringing his inspirational story to the employees and leaders of some of the biggest companies in the world, and over the years he has worked as both a color commentator and guest analyst for networks such as ESPN, CBS and NBC. He was part of Yahoo! Sports 2012 Olympic coverage from London.
Today Dan resides with his wife Leilani in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he is entering his ninth year as an assistant volunteer coach at Arizona State University.
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