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Ashton Eaton Reaches Athletic Summit & Wants to Stay There

By Steve Ritchie / Special to the Bend Bulletin
August 12, 2013


Ashton Eaton

Moscow, Russia - After winning his first World Championships gold medal in the decathlon on Sunday, Bend native Ashton Eaton said, "It was the only thing I had left on my list to do. Now I have done everything there is to do in the multi-events."

That comment, made in the glow of his latest triumph, doesn't mean that Eaton is going to just rest on his laurels, however. Last night, less than 30 minutes after Eaton clinched the victory, his coach Harry Marra was already developing a plan for Eaton through 2015, when the next World Championships will take place in Beijing, China.

But Eaton will now have some well-deserved down time, and, likely, a low-key season in 2014 - a year in which there is no Olympic Games or World Championships.

"He doesn't have to do jack-diddly squat (next year)," Marra said.

Marra has decades of experience in the multi-events, and he knows better than anyone the toll that training for and competing in the decathlon can take, especially during and immediately after an Olympic year.

"The year after the Olympic Games is a trauma," Marra said. "Take a look at the some of the Olympic decathlon winners and what they did (the year) after the Games. They did nothing.

"Let's be clear, for the people that don't understand what goes into the multi-events and what goes into it. . . After a big year like with the Olympics, the coach is fried and the athletes are fried, so you've really
got to pace yourself."

According to Marra, no Olympic decathlon champion has ever been able to come back and win a gold medal the following year in the World Championships.

One needs only to look at the previous two Americans who won major international championships in the decathlon to see the truth of Marra's point. Trey Hardee won world titles in 2009 and 2011, then had elbow surgery and has struggled to return to form. In this meet, he cramped up in the high jump, failed to get a clearance and withdrew from the competition.

The 2008 Olympic champion, Bryan Clay, never had a fully healthy season after his win in Beijing, and did not compete at all this year.

In his post-race comments, Eaton also referred to the intense demands that the decathlon makes on an athlete.

"This year has been different in that we've had to do a lot of physical and mental managing of things," Eaton said. "In 2012 I really had no physical problems, I think that is why I was able to do so well. This year I started out feeling great but all of sudden these little things started coming up."

Among those "little things" were a hamstring injury that limited Eaton in the high jump, and a shoulder "tweak" that kept him from throwing the javelin in practice. In the competition here in Moscow, the rust in those events was apparent, as Eaton struggled at times with his technique and rhythm.

The fact that he was able to successfully manage those challenges is a testament to Eaton's ability and his strength of character. His score of 8809 points here was just eight points behind Dan O'Brien's 1993 total of 8817, the highest decathlon score ever recorded at the world championships by an American.

Eaton's rise to the top has been nothing short of meteoric. He was a total novice in the multi-events when he started to do the decathlon early in his career at the University of Oregon. In his first world championship meet in 2009, Eaton did well on day one and then faded, finishing 18th. In 2011, he placed second behind Hardee, and then won Olympic gold in London.

The challenge for Eaton will be to continue to successfully find the balance between staying healthy and working hard in a blue-collar event that demands and rewards intense training. If he can do that, who knows what Eaton might eventually do.

"You never should put a limit on that," Marra said. "Ashton, if he stays healthy, you can't put a limit on that. Nothing's impossible."

 
 

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