At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Dan O'Brien won a gold medal in the decathlon for the United States. Sixteen years later, he has teamed up with Team USA and DeVry University for their Mark Your Moments App and Facebook page, which invites everyone to work toward their goals with the support of a community of similarly determined people.
ThePostGame: Tell me about the Mark Your Moments App.
DAN O'BRIEN: It's a wonderful Facebook app and page that encourages fans to log on and set goals for themselves, create a community around themselves and support others. Team USA and DeVry University have created a great partnership and brought together the campaign.
TPG: How did you first get into athletics?
O'BRIEN: I was adopted, and so when I was younger I wasn't really a very outgoing person. I started playing Little League baseball, started running races and playing basketball and things.
TPG: So how did playing sports help you overcome that shyness?
O'BRIEN: It was only when I started becoming a better athlete that I created this identity for myself. I gained a little bit of confidence, and when I gained confidence on the field I also gained it in the classroom and got a few more friends, so I think that sports really started me off to creating the identity of who it was I grew up to be.
TPG: When did you first realize you were something of a superior athlete?
O'BRIEN: I always identified myself as an athlete, and even as I got into high school, I knew that sports was going to be my biggest talent, so I tried to take advantage of that.
TPG: When did you first compete in a decathlon?
O'BRIEN: I did my first decathlon in the 10th grade, and then I did one decathlon every year thereafter. So one in 10th, one in 11th, one in 12th, and then I qualified for the Junior Olympics.
TPG: Tell me about your experience at the Junior Olympics.
O'BRIEN: I got to go to Los Angeles and see Carl Lewis run at the Olympic Trials while at the same time I was competing in the Junior Olympics. Watching Lewis run really inspired me.
TPG: How did he inspire you?
O'BRIEN: It's one of those things where you see somebody do it and you realize, 'that's what I want to do.' I think that these athletes today have a great opportunity to inspire young athletes in the future.
TPG: When you were first competing in the Junior Olympics, what was your best event?
O'BRIEN: I was always a fast guy. Speed was really the key of my decathlon. 100 meters, long jump, hurdle, I don’t think I had a best event really – the only event I won at the 1996 games was the 400 meters, and I took a lot of pride in the fact that I ran a good 400 because it’s one of the toughest events in track and field.
TPG: Your worst event?
O'BRIEN: I only had one bad event -- the last event, which was the 1,500 meters.
TPG: You were considered a lock for the 1992 Olympics, but didn't make the team. What happened, and how did that disappointment affect you, positively or negatively?
O'BRIEN: In 1992 I was the world champion, the American record holder, and all I had to do at the Olympic trials was make the team. I was one of the best guys in the country and I thought that was all I had to do. But then I ran into the pole vault. I didn't pole vault very well. I got zero points in that events, and I had to get over that. I wasn't really sure how I was going to get over it, but all athletes face adversity, and when I didn't make the team in '92 it turned out to be the most positive thing that could have happened to me, because for the next four years I was the most focused athlete in the world. And I was able to go out four years later and win the gold.