Olympian Clayton Murphy Sets His Sights on Gold in Tokyo and Reuniting with Akron
Clayton Murphy was in fifth place entering the backstretch of the 800-meter finals at the U.S Olympic Track & Field Trials when he surged past his competitors and won the race, earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo next month.
Murphy, who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio games, said it was all part of the plan.
"I really leaned on a lot of my strength through training and a lot of things we've been working on in practice the last couple of weeks leading in. So there wasn't anything that didn't catch me by surprise to be off the back the way I did and close the way I did," Murphy said.
Training in Northeast Ohio
Murphy, a native of New Madison, now calls Cleveland home with his wife. He relocated to Northeast Ohio to be close to his coach, Lee LaBadie, of The University of Akron, where Murphy attended for three years beginning in 2014.
"We've worked out all the high school tracks, whether it's Medina or Twinsburg or Solon or Beachwood. We've been running in the CVNP parks and just enjoying what Cleveland has to offer when it comes to running opportunities," Murphy said.
"I do really want some redemption, and I want more."
At Akron, Murphy won the 2016 NCAA outdoor 1,500-meter title and the 800-meter indoor title. He went on to complete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where he won a bronze medal in the 800-meter race.
"I always jokingly said, but also kind of pocketed it as a serious thought that, I only got bronze and there's other colors I can get. I do really want some redemption, and I want more," Murphy said.
This road to the Olympics came with a lot of challenges. Murphy strained his hamstring just a little over a week before the Trials.
"There was a lot of doubt whether or not I would even line up for a couple of these races, but my team and I really fought as hard as I could to put me on the line as strong as I could," he said.
And Murphy said there were the added obstacles of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, getting married and moving from Portland, Ore., to Cleveland.
"I'm for sure willing to come back to the table and see what we can do about mending things."
"I kind of take all of those experiences on the chin and kind of just use those as motivation and positives and learning experiences to continue to build my confidence leading into big races like the Olympic Trials," he said.
Mending a damaged relationship with UA
In 2020, Murphy cut ties with his alma mater, The University of Akron, after the school eliminated the men’s cross-country program. He launched a campaign to get the university to reverse the decision that was part of budget cuts as a result of the pandemic.
While Murphy says there's been no movement on restoring the relationship, Akron's new athletic director, Charles Guthrie, has reached out to Murphy's team and hopes to arrange a meeting either before or after the Tokyo games.
"I'm for sure willing to come back to the table and see what we can do about mending things with the university and make things right, because I think there's for sure an opportunity to continue to grow a program. It's hard to kind of deny that Akron isn't an elite program in the country and to continue to put limitations on it or take away support is just completely disappointing and shouldn't happen," Murphy said.
Murphy will head to Europe for a few more races before heading to Tokyo.
"It's about progressing training through and making sure I'm 100% and be focused on the task at hand and to try to hopefully bring home another medal for the U.S.," he said.