Flotrack's Best of 2012

Ashton Eaton - Record Breaker of the Year, Best of 2012

Ashton Eaton - Record Breaker of the Year, Best of 2012

Dec 27, 2012 by Mitch Kastoff
Ashton Eaton - Record Breaker of the Year, Best of 2012
He kind of looks at me and smiles and says, “Not the American record Ashton, the world record.”
It’s not every year that we get to nominate or even award an athlete for Record Breaker of the Year. Even though we’ve seen so many unbreakable marks shattered in the past few seasons, the mystique of being better than all of those who have come before still remains.
Ashton Eaton’s decathlon world record of 9,039 points at the U.S. Olympic Trials takes this year’s prize. Even though there were two other qualified performances, we played a little musical chairs with the categories and everything seems to have worked out.
When the annual discussion for Athlete of Year arises, there’s always a case to be made for the multi-event athletes. If this were a matter of diction, Eaton is the world’s best athlete. Ten events over two days isn’t only a grueling physical endeavor, but the range of events requires someone of Herculean strength and form of the Diskobolus of Myron.
A modern day Greek demi-god with Hayward Field as his Pantheon, Ashton Eaton gave track and field fans two unforgettable days last summer.
If you want to relive, or vicariously experience the moments firsthand, then Brady Fritz is the man you seek. Fritz, now an Athletic Compliance Graduate Assistant at the University of Northern Iowa, had a great view on the backstretch at the U.S. Olympic Trials and put together a montage of each of Eaton’s events.

This summer was nothing short of the highest expectations for Eaton. When asked about his decathlon world record, Eaton said, “It was the last thing on my mind.  I didn't care if I got third, I just wanted to make it to the Games... I wouldn't have wanted it any other way than what it was, who it was with, and where it was. What if it was perfect weather?  Who cares, it just added another layer, made the event what it was."
In order to take down Roman Sebrle’s world record of 9,026 points, it was going to take some Hayward Field magic for the Oregon Duck. The downpour was less than ideal for the multi-events and all Eaton had to do was finish in the top three to qualify.
It appeared as if the Gods of Track and Field didn’t want Eaton to break the mark, but after the first two events, it was apparent that he had their blessing.
Eaton’s marks of 10.21 in the 100m and 8.23m (27-0) in the long jump weren’t just personal bests, but world records for those events in the decathlon.
To give those performances even more perspective, Eaton was 0.3-seconds short of the  Olympic “A” standard in the 100m and his long jump would have placed him tied for second at the Trials.
Not bad for someone who didn’t primarily concentrate on those disciplines. Then again, you’re not crowned The Greatest Athlete in the World for cheap.
The rest of the rainy filled day consisted of a 14.20m (46-7.25) throw in the Shot Put, a 2.05m (6-8.75) jump in the High Jump, and a 46.70 finish in the 400m. By the end of day one, Eaton had 4,728 points.

Eaton and Sebrle would trade world record leads throughout the competition. Even though he was ahead after day one, Eaton would fall behind in his own personal race to be the best decathlete in the world.
After starting off the day with a 13.70 finish in the 100mH, Eaton slipped behind world record pace with an eighth place finish in the discus with a 42.81m (140-5) throw.
However, a personal best in the pole vault (5.30m or 17-4.5) would put him back on pace for history.

In baseball, it’s taboo to talk about a perfect game when it’s ongoing. In track and field, is it taboo to talk about records when they’re happening?
When it came down to the last two events (javelin and 1500m), Eaton may have been too in the moment to realize that he was on the cusp for something special.
“Before the javelin my coach called me over and started showing me different technique things with the javelin and how I should do this and that to throw far and I was getting the impression that he really wanted me to do well or that this javelin was more important than others. I said ‘OK coach, how far do I need to throw to get the American Record?’  At this point the possibility of breaking that record was floating around so I figured that's what he was hinting at.  He kind of looks at me and smiles and says, ‘Not the American record Ashton, the world record.’ After that it was kind of like a mission.  I was nervous of course but I also thought if was going to happen anywhere it was going to be at Hayward field.”
Nervous, but confident, Eaton’s throw of 58.87m (193-1) left him within the realm of possibility with one event to go. That event was the daunting and exhausting 1500m.
“After the javelin coach told me I had to run 4:16 and that's when the nerves hit hard.  It's interesting though because the way I felt then is the same way I had felt before a lot of the great moments in my career; nervous but not scared.  It's like my thoughts were on the fence of something not being possible but then possibly in the realm of happening.  It's a very interesting feeling.”
World record holder and Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton sometimes get nervous before an event.
He’s just like everyone else, but that’s where the comparisons end. Curtis Beach from Duke asked to pace Eaton to the record, but he declined. He had to break his previous personal best of 4:18.94 after the best decathlon performance in his running career. 
To once again put this record in perspective, Eaton  would have finished second if he decided to forgo the 1500m. On the edge of history, it’s not much of a surprise that he decided to make a run for it.
Eaton was on perfect pace through 400m with a split of 67.2. He then split 71.2 through 800m (2:18.4), and came through 1110m at 3:12.23. He needed a 64-second split to break the record and crossed the line in 62.26.

Eaton’s total of 9,039 broke Sebrle’s previous record of 9026. 
Not only do the pictures of the final meters capture Eaton’s elation, but the class of fellow decathletes Joe Detmer and Curtis Beach. Both athletes moved aside to let Eaton take the glory. Eaton said, “Curtis and Joe at the finish of the 15.  Classic multi-event mindset and a reflection of who those guys are.  The whole thing was just right.”
To better understand how Eaton and the ghost of 2001 Roman Sebrle both arrived at their eventual world record marks, below is a table of each athlete’s mark, running score, and cumulative total.

  Roman Sebrle

Ashton Eaton    
  Performance Score Running Total Performance Score Running Total
100m 10.64 942 942 10.21 1044 1044
LJ 8.11m 1089 2031 8.23m 1120 2164
Shot 15.33m 810 2841 14.20m 741 2905
HJ 2.12m 915 3756 2.05m 850 3755
400m 47.79 919 4675 46.70 973 4728
100mH 13.92 985 5660 13.70 1014 5742
Discus 47.92 827 6487 42.81m 722 6464
PV 4.80m 849 7336 5.30m 1004 7468
Javelin 70.16m 892 8228 58.87m 721 8189
1500m 4:21.98 789 9026 4:14.48 850 9039
Some athletes are more nervous for the trials than compared to the actual Olympic Games. There’s an incredibly high expectation to win gold at the Games that some athletes think about the next step before the Trails.
All too serendipitous, this decathlon marked the ten year anniversary for the failed “Dan and Dave” campaign sponsored by Reebok for the decathletes Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson. The ten events comes with an added pressure and Eaton casually brushed off failure.
“I was nervous for the trials but the Games trumped.  After my performance at the trials I felt an increase in expectation for a similar outcome at the Games.  Not necessarily a WR but definitely the gold.  The time between the trials and the Games wasn't very activity filled and despite my best efforts different scenarios got played out in my mind from time to time about the competition.  I was just making myself nervous.  I kept trying to downplay the whole thing telling myself it wasn't the Olympics but that's pretty hard to do.  The one revolving thought that had the most impact was the fact that this may be my only chance to get an Olympic gold medal so I wanted to maximize the opportunity.”

Eaton fulfilled all of his goals last spring. Not only did he maximize his athletic potential, but his marketability as well. Skillful as he’s charismatic, Eaton was as nimble on his feet as he is during the jumps during his Letterman appearance.

He wants to score over 9,000 points again, but we’ll have to wait until the spring. The world’s best are asked whether they’d rather have an Olympic gold medal or a world record. Ashton Eaton has both.