Some of the most famous athletes in 20th century sport were the decathletes: Jim Thorpe, Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson, CK Yang, Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn), and Daley Thompson.
Today, the sheen off the 10-event, 2-day competition known as the decathlon has dimmed. It’s a generalist’s competition in a day and age when specialists reign, which commonly means that kids growing up do not find it on offer in their schools.
That was true for young Ashton Eaton, who competed in football, basketball, running, soccer and wrestling in Mountain View High School in Oregon. A swift 400-meter runner and long jumper, Eaton did not generate much interest from the top universities. He decided to go to the University of Oregon, and focus on the decathlon. From that point on at the University of Oregon, Eaton became a perennial favorite in the decathlon, becoming the first to ever win three consecutive NCAA decathlon championships in the US.
While Eaton failed to make the US team for the Beijing Olympics, he not only qualified in 2012, but won gold at the London Games. Now he is seeking in Rio to be the third person to be crowned “Greatest Athlete in the World” at two consecutive Olympics.
Eaton is recovering from a hamstring injury so there were doubts. But in July, the world record holder won the US Olympic trials in the decathlon to qualify for Rio. And despite the injury, none of his biggest rivals have a personal best better than his results at the trials.
Is Ashton Eaton a safe bet to win gold at the Rio Olympics? Pretty safe.
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