Dave Johnson (athlete)

Medal record
Men's athletics
Competitor for  United States
Olympic Games
Bronze 1992 Barcelona Decathlon
Gold 1989 Duisburg Decathlon

David ("Dave") Allen Johnson (born April 7, 1963) is a former Olympic decathlete from the United States. A native of North Dakota, he grew up in Montana and Oregon. He was part of Reebok's "Dan & Dave" advertising campaign leading up to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, where he won a bronze medal in the decathlon. After retiring from competitive athletics he became a school teacher and administrator, and as of 2009 is the athletic director of Corban University in Salem, Oregon.


Early life

Dave Johnson was born on April 7, 1963, in North Dakota and grew up in Missoula, Montana. As a child he attended C. S. Porter Elementary School and later attended Sentinel and Big Sky High School.[1] Johnson's family moved to Corvallis, Oregon, in 1980, and he attended Crescent Valley High School,[2] graduating in 1981.[3] He was involved in a series of petty thefts as a teenager, primarily stealing soda pop and beer from local distributors with an assortment of childhood friends until one of them was caught and informed on the rest. He later detailed his experiences to reporters prior to the Barcelona Olympic games and used the material for his book and speaking tour as an example on how to turn one's life around.

During adolescence Johnson was afflicted with Osgood-Schlatter disease in both knees that kept him from participating in high school sports for the most part. During his junior high years he excelled in track, touch football and was on a Kiwanis basketball team for two years. In elementary school he played organized Little League baseball and had some familiarity with boxing.


Even as a child Johnson was exceptionally fit and coordinated and lifted weights from a young age. In college at Azusa Pacific University he started to compete in the decathlon - at 6'4", he put his innate abilities and his constant physical training to use and began setting records. He graduated from the school in 1986 with a bachelors degree in psychology, and later earned a masters degree in 2003 from the school in special education.[2] After several years he was generally acknowledged as the best decathlete to date. At this time Dan O'Brien appeared on the scene and began to provide Dave with his first real competition. O'Brien and Johnson became good friends and consistently placed first and second in most events. O'Brien eventually began to be considered the best overall decathlete, but Johnson earned the recognition as the best ever at 2nd day events. Johnson was a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic team.[3]

For the 1992 Summer Olympics Games the team of "Dan & Dave" was promoted as the real competition in the games and the question of who would take first and who would come in second was widely debated. Dan failed to qualify for the team when he no-heighted on the pole vault, leaving Dave as the presumed gold medal winner. Unfortunately for him, Johnson experienced a stress fracture in his left foot on the first day of events. He put on a shoe two sizes larger, laced it up tight, and competed anyway and won the bronze medal.[3] Johnson's endorsement career continued for at least another year after the Barcelona Olympic Games and included Oakley Sunglasses, Pert Shampoo, Ryder Trucks, and Reebok shoes among others.

Later life

Johnson later retired from competition and became a motivational speaker. He also wrote the book "Aim High - An Olympic Decathlete's Inspiring Story" with Verne Becker.[2] Until 2006, Johnson worked at Jefferson High School as a special education instructor and assistant principal in Jefferson, Oregon.[3] He was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, entering with fellow decathlon competitor Dan O'Brien.[4][5] He also has a wife and four children.[2] For a couple years in the early 2000s he taught at West Albany High School in Albany, Oregon.[6] Johnson then became the athletic director at South Salem High School to the north in Salem.[2] In June 2009, he was named as the athletic director of Corban University, a small private college in Salem.[2]

Career statistics

  • PR: 8727 points
  • Broke American record
    • 1989: 8549 points
  • Olympic bronze medal, 1992
    • 8309 points
  • Olympic 9th place finish, 1988
    • 8180 points
  • U.S. national champion
    • 1986: 8203w
    • 1989: 8549
    • 1990: 8600w
    • 1992: 8649
  • World University Games champion, 1989
    • 8216 points


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