Putting Ashton Eaton’s performance in to perspective

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In my dozen years in elite track and field, I have seen some amazing things up close and personal:

  • I was ringside as the USATF shot put biomechanist when Christian Cantwell had the greatest shot put series in history at the Home Depot center.
  • I was on staff at LSU when Xavier Carter led the 4x400m to an insane collegiate record NCAA win of 2:59.59.
  • I was on the infield 10 feet from the finish line when Tyson Gay ran 9.69.
  • I was on the high jump apron when Chaunte Lowe set the American record in the high jump (2.05m / 6 feet, 8 ¾ inches).
  • I was in the stands when Walter Dix ran 19.69 to set the collegiate record.
  • I was on the runway when Breaux Greer threw the American record in the javelin (91.29m / 299 feet, 6 inches).

The list goes on and it makes me appreciate the life I live. But nothing I’ve ever witnessed compares to what I witnessed Ashton Eaton do this past week at the 2012 US Olympic trials. In some of the worst conditions I’ve seen for a national championship meet (~55 deg and pouring rain) he emphatically showed himself to be the world’s greatest athlete by winning the decathlon in a world record score of 9,039. Usain Bolt has nothing on this guy (except for the 100m and 200m). Because I had an athlete in the field and sat in the cold rain myself through the grueling weather, I was able to witness his dominating performance first hand and be able to put it in perspective. Here are his marks followed by some fascinating statistics to put his performance in to perspective:

  • 100 meters: 10.21 seconds (fastest ever in a decathlon), 1,044 points
  • Long jump: 8.23 meters, or 27 feet (best ever in a decathlon), 1,120 points
  • Shot put: 14.20 meters (46, feet, 7 inches), 741 points
  • High jump: 2.05 meters (6 feet, 8 ¾ inches), 850 points
  • 400 meters: 46.70 seconds, 973 points
  • 110 hurdles: 13.70 seconds, 1,014 points
  • Discus: 42.81 meters (140 feet, 5 inches), 722 points
  • Pole vault,: 5.30 meters (17 feet, 4 ½ inches), 1,004 points
  • Javelin: 58.87 meters (193 feet, 2 inches), 721 points
  • 1,500: 4:14.48, 850 points

And now some facts to put this in to perspective:

  • If Ashton Eaton were a team, he would have placed 6th as a team at the NCAA Division 1 national championships. He would have won the 100m, long jump, and placed third in the hurdles. He would have also qualified in the 400m and pole vault. With his 100m / 400m times one can only assume he’d be great at the 200m as well so if we were to do the 100m, 200m, long jump and hurdles he could have placed as high as 4th. As a team.
  • Asthon is likely the top long jumper in the U.S. He took one jump and passed on his remaining two. The rain was so hard people were slipping off the takeoff board yet he broke the decathlon world record in the event. He managed a mark that it took 6 attempts, considerably warmer and dryer temperature and more wind for the eventual open long jump winner to best by just a couple inches. As it stands, Eaton’s mark is still the 2nd best mark at the Olympic trials.
  • Think of how good a person is to be able to run 10.21 for 100m, 46.70 for 400m, 13.70 for 110m Hurdles OR 4:14.48. Now imagine that being one dude. And he’s also a good thrower and jumper too.
  • He has long held the title of best running decathlete (cumulative score of his running events) but with his performance in Eugene his is also now the second best ever jumping decathlete. If it weren’t for the rain he would easily hold that title too.
  • Some people knock decathletes at being ‘jacks of all trades but masters of none’…not too many people can say that about Eaton.
  • He has the Olympic games A standard in the long jump and the B standard in the 100m.
  • He destroyed a field that included two of the greatest multi-eventers of all time (Clay and Hardee) as well as several other previous multi-event national champions.
  • By most accounts, the weather, especially on Thursday, cost the athletes at least 200 points on their total and perhaps as much as 300. It was cold and there were no breaks in the rain on day 1. Other events were delayed or cancelled…but not the decathlon.

As a former decathlete myself I know the event is always a challenge because you can never have the perfect decathlon. Sometimes results come together when you’re not expecting it and other times you could be in the best shape of your life and things fizzle. So let’s hope Eaton keeps this roll going and show the world just how good he is.

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