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
"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
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
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
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."