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Olympic gold medalist takes flight with the Thunderbirds

Olympic Gold Medalist Bryan Clay gets to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds
Posted at 6:46 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 00:55:31-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Air Force Thunderbirds came back to Colorado Springs for the 2021 Air Force Academy graduation.

During a practice run on Tuesday, they took gold medal decathlete Bryan Clay on a ride.

“It was a little nervewracking, but a lot of fun,” Clay said.

Olympic Gold Medalist Bryan Clay gets to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds
Olympic Gold Medalist Bryan Clay gets to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds

The flight was part of a growing partnership between USAFA and USPOC.

“It was pretty intimidating at first,” Clay said, “you go through all the protocols and you realize- oh wow, this is real- there's a lot you got to know. These guys are unbelievably trained and just talented at what they do. This is a new field for me.”

Clay won a gold medal in the 2005 World Championships and in 2008 for Team USA in Beijing.

Olympic Gold Medalist Bryan Clay gets to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds
Olympic Gold Medalist Bryan Clay gets to fly with the Air Force Thunderbirds

He’s used to a lot of training but said gearing up for this experience was different.

“I think the mindset is the same. You go through the fundamentals of what they told you to do and you try to execute that,” Clay said, “but the experience is just something you just can't explain. It’s just totally different than anything I've ever done before.”

When it came to this flight that celebrated his accomplishments, the man considered the “World’s Greatest Athlete” was as humble as could be.

“It’s amazing to watch and see and to meet people that from a very young age decided that this is the career path they want to take,” Clay said, “you know, somebody like me that’s just a regular everyday citizen, I’m so blessed to be able to have people like that, that have that calling on their life.”

Clay said the honor was his to help celebrate our Air Force Cadets as they become commissioned officers of the United States Air Force.

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