World decathlon record-holder says running between 47 and 48 seconds is his goal for the 400m hurdles
With no major championships to consider next season, Ashton Eaton has decided to switch his attention to the 400m hurdles and says he is eyeing times of between 47 and 48 seconds over the barriers.
Last year the 25-year-old world decathlon record-holder added the world title to the Olympic gold he claimed in London in 2012, putting him well on his way to becoming the best decathlete in history. But for now, he’s diverting his attention away from combined events and focusing on the 400m hurdles as he looks forward to his year of “fun”.
“There is no major championship this year so that’s an obvious reason,” Eaton says of his decision to focus on the hurdles.
“The second thing is 2011, 2012, and 2013 were cumulatively very hard. We had a lot of success. There was also a lot of stress on the mind and the body.
“Realising we’re going to have 2015, 16, 17 being the same, maybe with more expectation considering the success we’ve had, we knew that 2014 had to be a lighter year.
“There is no way you can go hard for seven years in a row because something’s going to blow!”
Deciding to try something completely new, the event Eaton has chosen is not even one of the 10 disciplines in the decathlon. His long jump personal best of 8.26m would have placed him sixth at the 2013 IAAF World Championships while his 400m best of 45.64 would have put him in the semi-finals, so why the hurdles?
“The 400m hurdles is good because my stride pattern is conducive to being a good 400m hurdler because typically you want 13 steps between hurdles as a way to run and I seem to have longer strides,” he tells AW.
“Also I think I’m an aggressive 400m runner, so that seems to help. I’m athletic generally so the art of hurdling itself doesn’t seem to strain me that hard.”
Despite never having raced in the event, Eaton and his team are aiming high. His agent, Paul Doyle, explains: “We think Ashton will certainly be capable of running in the Diamond League.” However, perhaps out of modesty, or even honesty, Eaton says he had not pinpointed any particular competitions other than the US outdoors.
“Firstly we’re looking to the US champs. I’d love to run in the Diamond League, be competitive and have some fun but I haven’t even done a race yet. What if I absolutely suck and run it in like 49 or 50 seconds?”
If it does go well, Eaton says he will be aiming for a time of between 47 and 48 seconds, a target the former Trinidadian track star Ato Boldon agreed was possible when the pair last spoke. “Ato thought that I could run about 47,” says Eaton. “I’d love to run 48 low. I trained as a decathlete and ran my 45.5 in the 400m. So if my training is more focused on the 400m and the 400m hurdles can I run even faster and drop it down to 47?”
Though before he even starts to consider the hurdles, Eaton has a world indoor heptathlon title to defend. Consistently a record-breaker in the heptathlon, the former Oregon University athlete has reset the world record for the event three times since 2010.
“Would I like to go for the world record again? Of course,” he says, with the IAAF World Indoor Championships taking place in Poland in March.
“But I probably won’t know if I’m in that kind of shape until maybe around February.”