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US decathlete Ashton Eaton set the one and only new world record at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, when he racked up a total of 9,045 points. His phenomenal performance included the fastest ever 400m ever run by a decathlete.
The previous mark of 9,039 was also the work of the indefatigable Eaton, who posted the figure at the USA Track and Field Trials in June 2012 in Eugene, in his native Oregon, eclipsing the 9,026 points tallied by Czech decathlete Roman Sebrle back in 2001.
Unbeaten in the decathlon since 2011 and the undisputed world No1, the 28-year-old Eaton is the world record holder in the event, the reigning two-time world champion and three-time world indoor heptathlon champion. As if that were not enough, he also has an Olympic title to defend this August.
His London 2012 triumph was impressive to say the least. Making his intentions clear from the off, he ran 10.35 in the 100m and sailed out to 8.03m in the long jump, hugely impressive performances that earned him 2,079 points and took him well clear of his rivals.
He kept the pace up in the final three events on day one of the decathlon competition, rounding it off with the fastest 400m time of the 31 competitors.
Continuing in the same vein on day two, Eaton kept his compatriot Trey Hardee at bay with a string of superlative performances in the five remaining events, eventually taking the gold by nearly 200 points from his USA team-mate, who recorded a personal best. Cuba’s Leonel Suárez won the bronze with a PB of his own, climbing into the medals from eighth place in the last two events.
“It’s sunk into my muscles,” said Eaton afterwards, reacting to his golden performance. “I’m a little tired but I feel very, very happy and good. It’s hard to describe. I do so much work, and I was able to do it.
“It’s a lot of sacrifices. I don’t have as much fun as I’d like to with my friends. I don’t see my family that much, because I’m training. There’s a lot of things that a 24-year-old does that I don’t do just because I want to win.”
There was further joy for the all-conquering Eaton in July 2013, when he married his University of Oregon training partner Brianne Theisen, the pair having met in 2007. Eleven months her husband’s junior, the Canadian is herself one of the world’s leading multi-eventers.
Within a month of tying the knot, Eaton and his wife won world decathlon gold and heptathlon silver respectively in Moscow, results they reprised two years later in Beijing, where the American set his current world record, a mark that he alone seems capable of improving.
The husband and wife act finally got in tune at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships, held in the familiar surroundings of Portland, with Eaton winning gold in the heptathlon with a total of 6,470 points and Theisen-Eaton doing likewise in the pentathlon, amassing 4,481 points.
The duo look to have every chance of repeating that feat at Rio 2016. The defending Olympic decathlon champion qualified in style for the Games in early July 3, scoring a season-best 8,750 points at the US Trials in Eugene, while his other half turned in the best heptathlon performance of 2016 in Götzis (AUT) at the end of May, racking up 6,765 points.
National No1s on either side of the USA/Canada border and currently atop the world rankings, they have plenty to aim for in Rio, where Eaton will attempt to become the first man since Daley Thompson in 1984 to retain the Olympic title. Meanwhile, Theisen-Eaton will look to improve significantly on the 11th place she achieved at London 2012, when Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill won gold.
Contemplating their trip to Rio, Eaton said: “It’s pretty cool. We probably won't fully understand until we’re older and have opportunity to look back on the experience.”