A statistical look at the 9039 world record-breaking decathlon score from USA’s Ashton Eaton
Yesterday Ashton Eaton put together the greatest ever series of 10 track and field performances when winning the decathlon at the US Olympic Trials with a world record of 9039.
His performance bettered by 13 points the world record that had been set 11 years ago by Roman Sebrle – which is seriously impressive in and of itself, of course, but when each individual performance of Eaton’s is broken down, it becomes all the more mind-boggling.
Eaton opened his world record series with the fastest 100m clocking ever recorded in a decathlon, a 10.21 personal best to better the 10.22 achieved by American Chris Huffins in 1996. Not only would Eaton’s 10.21 have been enough to comfortably make it into the US Trials semi-finals of the 100m – traditionally the strongest event at those championships – but it was also faster than the winning time from the UK Olympic Trials, where Dwain Chambers won with 10.25.
For the second event in a row, Eaton produced the best ever performance within a decathlon, this time by jumping 8.23m in the long jump – another personal best. Before that, the best leap by a decathlete was a wind-assisted 8.22m by Sydney Olympic champion Erki Nool. Eaton also owns the best ever jump within an indoor heptathlon with his 8.16m from this year’s World Indoors.
Eaton’s 8.23m ranks him within the top 10 in the world for that event this year and is in excess of the Olympic ‘A’ standard. It has only been bettered by one other American this year, world indoor triple jump champion Will Claye, and would have also been good enough to win at the UK Olympic Trials.
The throwing events have never been Eaton’s strongest, but he has worked hard on improving them. Just four years ago his PB was 12.79m, and even when he set his first world record for the indoor heptathlon it stood at just 13.12m. Although he did not set a personal best en route to his decathlon world record at the US Trials, his PB now stands at 14.74m and it is no longer the weak event it once was.
Eaton had this year set an outdoor high jump PB of 2.11m, but his 2.05m leap in difficult conditions was still the best high jump of the day at the US Trials. By being six centimetres down on his best, it also means that there is an extra 56 points there for the taking should Eaton ever take another crack at the world record.
In this event, Eaton boasts a lifetime best of 45.68, but that was achieved outside a full decathlon. His 46.70 clocking in the pouring rain in Eugene is as good as could have been expected given the soaked track, as he has only twice ran faster within a decathlon – both times in better conditions. Only one athlete, USA’s Bill Toomey, has ever broken 46 seconds within a decathlon and that came in the altitude of Mexico City, but Eaton is surely capable of doing it in the near future.
This is another event where Eaton excells and his lifetime best of 13.35 is the fastest of any world-class decathlete in history. He was a few tenths down on his best in Eugene – again, meaning there’s room for improvement on his world record in future – but his 13.70 saw him finish 0.01 ahead of two-time world champion Trey Hardee in one of his best events.
As with the shot, Eaton has knuckled down on the discus in recent years. He only broke 40 metres for the first time in 2009 but within two years improved to 47.36m. In Eugene, however, this was perhaps his most disappointing event as he was four-and-a-half metres down on his PB. Should he come close to his best performance in this event in future, it will give him an extra 100 points.
This was something of a turning point for Eaton in Eugene, as the added points boost of setting a personal best meant that the world record was a possibility. Many a decathlon disaster has occurred in the pole vault – the most notable example being that of former world record-holder Dan O’Brien, who was the favourite to win the 1992 Olympic title but failed to register a height in the pole vault at the US Trials and did not go to Barcelona.
Fortunately for Eaton there was no such drama and he cleared 5.00m, 5.10m and 5.20m on his first attempts. He then vaulted an outright personal best of 5.30m, bringing his overall points tally after eight events to 7468 – a mark that would be good enough for fifth on this year’s UK rankings for the full decathlon!
This is arguably Eaton’s best throwing event, and this year he broke 60 metres for the first time. He was only marginally down on that in Eugene, but his 58.87m is his best ever throw within a decathlon.
Eaton is an all-rounder on the track and proved it in Eugene. It is very rare for someone to possesses such phenomenal sprint speed as well as great endurance, but Eaton is a unique specimen. He needed to better his previous PB (4:18.94) by two seconds to break the world record, but ended up taking a four-second chunk off his lifetime best.
In the four running events in Eugene, Eaton amassed 3881 points – by far and away the highest number of points ever scored in the track events within a decathlon, more than 150 points better than Daley Thompson’s 3728 track event points from the 1986 Europeans.
Eleven years ago when Roman Sebrle became the first man to break 9000 points in the decathlon, it seemed as though all the stars fell inline for his near-perfect two days of competition. His world record had gone unchallenged ever since then, although when Eaton broke through with his world indoor heptathlon record in 2010, talk began of a potential future world record in the 10-discipline event.
Eaton now becomes the ninth American to hold the decathlon world record. He also joins fellow American Dan O’Brien as the only other man to hold the world records for both the decathlon and the indoor heptathlon at the same time.