Moscow, Russia - The 14th edition of the IAAF World Track & Field
Championships got underway on Saturday in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and
several Oregon athletes had their moments in the spotlight.
Former UO star Ashton Eaton had an up-and-down day in the decathlon, but,
when the dust settled at the end of the day, Eaton held a nine-point lead
at the midway point of the event.
In the 10,000 meter final, Galen Rupp was with the leaders on the last lap
and in a position to win the first world championship medal ever in that
event for the U.S. However, Rupp fell just short in the stretch drive,
finishing fourth in 27:24.39 behind teammate and winner Mo Farah of Great
Nick Symmonds began his quest to win a medal in the 800 meters by
advancing to the semifinals with a victory in his heat. The former
Willamette University standout still has two races to go, but has to be
considered, at the least, a strong contender to win his first medal at a
major international competition, and the first medal for the U.S. in the
800 meters in 16 years.
Bend native Eaton, who won Olympic gold and set the world record in the
decathlon in 2012, gave his competitors an early wake-up call when the
competition got underway at 9:35 am local time with the 100 meters.
blasted to a 10.35, just .01 seconds off the fastest-time ever run in a
world championship decathlon 100.
Though his start was fairly cautious, since there had already been a false
start in his heat, Eaton pulled away impressively from the field over the
last 50 meters.
The long jump, the second event in the decathlon, is always one of Eaton's
best disciplines, and it was no different on Saturday. He improved on each
of his three jumps, ending up with a mark of 25-4 1/2 to take the overall
lead by 59 points after two events.
As the current world record holder in the decathlon, Eaton is the odds-on
favorite here. But no reigning Olympic champion has ever gone on to win
next world championship gold. Every decathlon competition is a minefield -
ten events where anything could go wrong. The physical and mental
were evident on Saturday.
Shot put was one of Eaton's weaker events until he made dramatic
improvement in the last two years. He struggled again with his form in the
shot put on Saturday, but showed his maturity, managing to keep his cool
and improve on each of his three attempts. His best mark of 47-2 ½ was
respectable, though it was more than three feet short of his personal best
of 50-6 1/4. Still, he kept the lead.
Meanwhile, 2011 world champion Trey Hardee of the U.S. was hanging tough
after three events, just 121 points behind Eaton, but disaster struck
Hardee in the high jump. Hardee missed three times without clearing a
height, effectively ending his chances to repeat as champion.
While Hardee struggled, young Gunnar Nixon appeared willing and able to
rise to the occasion. The 20-year-old Nixon, who won the world junior
title in 2012, seemed at ease on this stage despite his youth. He had
personal bests in two of the first three events, recording better marks
than Eaton in both the long jump and the shot put.
Nixon, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas put on a show in the high
jump, clearing 7' ¼" and, with Eaton only able to clear 6-4, Nixon took
over the lead. Going into the 400 meters, Nixon was ahead of Michael
Schrader of Germany by 110 points, and Eaton by 116 points.
Eaton said later that his motivation was lacking after "a long three
years," in which he won gold at the Olympics, silver at the 2011 worlds,
and set a world record.
"I was kicking my butt last year to be in really good shape and to do
great things - which I did. Finally, (we're) here in August, and I'm
feeling pretty exhausted. Coach (Harry Marra) said basically, 'Get your
head out of your (rear) and get into the lead.' I thought, 'Okay, I might
Coach Marra's mini pep talk worked wonders, as Eaton dominated the 400
meters, running 46.03 to Nixon's 48.56. While his lead is a slim nine
points, Eaton felt confident going into day two.
"I'm in the lead now," Eaton said, "and typically the hurdles might
increase that lead and discus and everything else is solid."
Symmonds felt just as positive after winning his heat in the first round
of the 800 in 1:46.90.
"I didn't have to expend too much energy to get through this one. I wanted
to just be top 3 and then just hold off anyone who wanted to challenge me
for one of those spots.
Symmonds said he wasn't fazed by his new status as one of the favorites in
the 800, especially with the absence - due to injury - of world record
holder David Rudisha, as well as the other two medalists at the London
"I've been doing this for so dang long now, I'm used to coming in as a
favorite, coming in as an underdog, coming in as a young kid, and coming
as a veteran," Symmonds said. "I said earlier this year you have to have a
lot of different tricks up your sleeve if you are going to make it to the
finals. I'm the only person in the world, I believe, to make the last
global finals, so I know what it takes no matter how (the race) goes out."
Symmonds will run the 800 semifinals on Sunday, and, if he qualifies as
one of the eight finalists, the finals on Tuesday evening.
For Rupp, the highest-finish ever for an American in the 10,000 meters at
the World Championships was no solace to missing out on a medal by 1.78
seconds. Rupp won the silver medal behind Farah at the Olympic Games last
summer, but couldn't quite manage to duplicate that feat here.
"I did a good job staying up front with the leaders, but I just didn't
have it that last 200. The goal here was to medal and I'm disappointed
I didn't," Rupp said.