Here is the face of a hero-in-waiting, a physique that could be coming soon to a Wheaties box near you. Maybe you already know O’Brien from those goofy Reebok ads costarring pal and decathlon rival Dave Johnson. Both are due to square off at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, but O’Brien, 25, is the odds-on favorite in the grueling 10-event competition. Strong and swift at 6’2″, 185 lbs., O’Brien thrills fans with his elegance and style. “There’s an artistry of movement in the decathlon that is beautiful,” says the bachelor, who lives and trains nine hours daily in Moscow, Idaho. “And I feel beautiful when I do the movements fluidly.”
O’Brien gracefully hurdled a rough start. His Finnish mother and black father placed him in an orphanage; he was adopted at age 2 by an Oregon family. Encouraged by his parents, he took up the decathlon in 1985. “What I love about the body is, you can get muscles if you want or you can get fat,” says O’Brien. “I’m happy with mine, though I’d like to get rid of the gap between my front teeth.” Even if he does, he still won’t think himself a hunk. “I prefer to be mysterious. Like in those movies where Harrison Ford plays this quiet loner who gets the girl.” Or, in O’Brien’s case, gets the gold.