Dan O'Brien will race again, all for a good cause

Gold medalist Dan O'Brien is competing in the decathlon again.

Well, not the decathlon. He won Olympic gold in that event at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and at age 46, he is now a little past his prime. But he will compete in a decathlon. To be specific, he's competing in this summer's RBC Decathlon, the annual charity competition among Wall Street employees that benefits the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

So how does an Olympic gold medalist feel about competing against stock advisors, hedge fund managers and other Wall Street employees?

"I'm sure that once I get close to the competition, I'll feel nervous because you're pushing yourself," O'Brien said. "That's what I like about the event. It's the challenge. It gives everyone a long-term goal. When you train for the Olympics, that's all you can do. You can't go to work, you can't have a part-time job. But these guys are doing it on the side. ...

"I don't take anything lightly. If I'm going to compete, I'm going to take it seriously. As an athlete, you don't want to underperform."

Donations are raised through CharityBets, a performance-based fundraising program developed by RBC Decathlon organizers Dave Maloney and Marc Hodulich. The concept is simple. You can either make a simple set donation or make a sliding donation based on the performance of the competitor on whom you bet. The good thing is, regardless of how your bets goes, charity always wins.

"I've been known to gamble a bit from time to time," O'Brien said of the event's appeal. "The program he's developed makes sense to me. It's a good fit for these guys. They are guys with disposable income, they're mature and well-muscled. They're doing it for the fun of it, but they're also doing it for the charity. I'm honored that Dave would want me to be the face of the decathlon."

"Dan's participation opens up a world of charity-betting possibilities and will dramatically increase spectators who take a keen interest in his performance," Maloney said. "He's also still a role model to much of the financial services community, so Dan's presence will certainly stoke the competitive spirit among participants."

The Olympic decathlon takes place over two days, while the RBC Decathlon is a one-day competition at Wien Field on the Columbia University campus July 27. The RBC Decathlon is a combination of an actual decathlon and a football combine. The 10 events are the 400-meter run, football throw, dips, 40-yard dash, 500-meter stationary row, five-cone drill, pull-ups, vertical jump, bench press and 800-meter run.

O'Brien said he is confident he can hold his own in the pull-up and vertical jump competitions, but he expressed concern about the 400 and 800 runs. One, some back pain issues have restricted his running in recent years, and two, everyone hates the 400- and 800-meter lengths.

"Even as a former athlete, those are two events you don't want to do," he said. "Put me in a 5K or let me run a 40, but don't put me in the middle-distance races. To run a good 400 or a good 800, you have to train."

Not that O'Brien ever minds that; in fact, he said he preferred training to competing.

"Ultimately, what it came down to was that I loved my job," he said. "I liked getting up every day and working toward my goal."

For more information about the RBC Decathlon and this year's inaugural Wall Street mile run, go to thedecathlon.org.