As a young boy, Bruce says he struggled as a student and was later diagnosed with dyslexia. In fifth grade, Bruce says he won a running race at school and soon discovered that being good at sports helped him overcome his feelings of being inferior to other children. "That was my little refuge—I could go out there, build self-esteem and beat the other guy," he says. "My greatest gift in life was being dyslexic. … If I would have been like every other kid in class and been an okay reader and an okay student, I wouldn't have needed sports."
While attending college on a football scholarship, Bruce says he began competing in decathlons and won a spot in the 1972 Olympics. He came in 10th place, and Bruce says the experience compelled him to push his body to its limit so he could return to the Olympics in 1976 and win. Training for the 10 track-and-field events of the decathlon was an eight-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. "To train to that level, you have to be so obsessed with what you are doing. In the off-season, I would run 70-mile weeks. I did an enormous amount of lifting and an enormous amount of technical work," he says. His work paid off, and Bruce captured the hearts of the nation by winning the gold medal in 1976. "I'm very proud of that moment. I worked very, very hard and did an enormous amount of training for it and went to the big show and performed my absolute best," he says.
Bruce retired from athletics the day he won the gold, and since then he's made a career out of personal appearances, public speaking as well as acting, reality TV, sports commentating and other business endeavors. Running is no longer a part of his life because of knee injuries, but Bruce says he's found a new sport he's passionate about. "I got heavily into mountain biking," he says. "It's easier on your body; it's easier on your knees."
As for his work as a public speaker—Bruce says he's still in demand and says his story still has the power to inspire people in all professions. "That [Olympic] experience—which was so motivating to so many people way back when—it didn't die back then," he says. "It lives on and still has the ability to motivate people."