Jon Mulkeen looks at how decathlon world record-holder Ashton Eaton became the best sportsperson on the planet

In September 2012, one month after his Olympic triumph in London, Athletics Weekly ran a feature on Ashton Eaton with the headline, ‘The world’s greatest athlete?’

Three years on, three more global titles and another world record later, it’s time to take away the question mark.

Eaton set his world record of 9045 points in the ultimate test of all-round athleticism at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

“A world record when winning a world title is a rare feat,” said IAAF president Sebastian Coe. “It capped two unequalled days of decathlon brilliance.”

In the most demanding of all athletics events, Eaton is the only athlete to have achieved the full set: Olympic titles, world titles, world indoor titles, world records indoors and out. Another Olympic gold in Rio would mean he would have done each of those things at least twice over.

Despite his success, Eaton lives a relatively modest life in Eugene, Oregon, with his wife Brianne Theisen-Eaton, the two-time world heptathlon silver medallist.

Eaton could – and, if achievement and fame were directly correlated, certainly should – be one of the biggest sporting stars in the world. But when asked about his status as being one of the all-time greats, arguably the best sportsperson on the planet, he gives a diplomatic and naturally self-effacing answer.

“My favourite thing to say now is something I read in a book,” he says. “I’m the second-best sportsperson in the world, second to the person who is going to come after me.

“My favourite thing to say now is something I read in a book. I’m the second-best sportsperson in the world, second to the person who is going to come after me”

“I do think – and this is something that Caitlyn or Bruce (Jenner) told me years ago – that the decathlon is the only standardised test, it’s like the SATs of athleticism because you have so many different things to go over. And so the person who does the best at that is the best athlete in the world. I thought that’s a good way of looking at it.

“What I would say is I’m just the best who has attempted it,” he adds. “Maybe there’s a great decathlete who is playing American football and could score 9500 points if he wanted.”

» Read Jon Mulkeen’s full six-page feature on Ashton Eaton in the January 7 edition of Athletics Weekly magazine

» Video via IAAF Official on YouTube