Ashton Eaton retained his title as the best all-around athlete in the world by tying the decathlon Olympic record in Rio de Janeiro — but within minutes, track and field’s ultimate superstar took back the centre stage again.
What more could the now two-time Olympic champion Eaton do Thursday night to get just a little sliver of the limelight that beams so brightly on Usain Bolt?
Not much. But the ever-gracious Eaton is OK with that.
“I had the pleasure of being in the same era as Usain Bolt,” Eaton said. “I mean, the guy’s last name is Bolt. He’s the fastest man ever. You can’t write a story like that.”
For his own impressive tale, the American made it back-to-back Olympic and world titles in the decathlon, an event Eaton has ruled since he rebounded from silver at the worlds in 2011 to claim the next four major gold medals available. From throwing, to jumping, to running, Eaton can do it all.
The American joined an elite pantheon of decathlon greats who have won back-to-back Olympic golds, Bob Mathias (1948, 1952) and Daley Thompson (1980, 1984) the other two to have achieved the feat.
“I was ready to run myself into the hospital tonight,” said Eaton.“I’m just glad it wasn’t an easy walk through.
“The young Frenchman, Kevin Mayer, was there to push me to the test and I think I passed the test. I’m glad he was there.” Eaton added: “Decathlon is an exclusive company. I’m just happy to be part of the decathlon family regardless of the records.
“Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson, those guys are awesome and to be in company of two-time medallists is great. I was not aware of Daley when I was growing up,” he added, refusing to disclose whether he was thinking of going for third gold at the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Eaton hinted that the run-in to the Rio Games had been tougher than that of the London Olympics. “The second time around, it so far feels about the same,” he said of his second Olympic gold. I would say that the lead up was quite a bit more difficult these last four years.”
Eaton’s victory extended his remarkable unbeaten streak in combined events competition that stretches back to his triumph in London in 2012. Mayer won silver with a French record of 8,834pts, Canada’s Damian Warner taking bronze (8,666).
But it all came down to the final event, the 1500m, with Mayer in for a chance of victory himself, albeit a slim one. The Frenchman, winning his country’s first decathlon medal since 1948, needed to beat Eaton by seven seconds.
But Eaton moved past Mayer with 200 metres of the 1500m to go to make sure of the win. “Ashton is a real example for decathlon. To be so close to him, well I hope that in the world championships next year it’ll be a close battle!” said Mayer.
Eaton had at one stage been on target to better his own world record or at least a 9,000+ score, but just faded away.