Agent to Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee talks to AW about the two athletes as they go head-to-head at the IAAF World Championships
As one of the most highly-respected managers in track and field, Paul Doyle knows a fair bit about the sport and winning medals. Last night he saw his client Christian Taylor bring the Bird’s Nest crowd to delirium as he soared to the second best mark in history to take IAAF World Championships victory in the men’s triple jump and he was in the stadium bright and early again on Friday morning for the start of the men’s decathlon. It’s an event in which he manages the two favourites – world record-holder and defending champion Ashton Eaton and two-time world champion Trey Hardee, both of the USA.
Aside from their amazing ability the pair have also got history on their side as only once in the last 10 years has a Doyle Management Group athlete not finished top of the podium in the event at a major championships.
AW caught up with Doyle to get his take on this exciting contest and the decathlon in general.
Going into the competition in Beijing, Eaton is the favourite given his recent 400m and pole vault personal bests and the fact that his comparable PBs to Hardee’s equate to him being 200 points better off at the end of the competition, with Canada’s Damian Warner around 100 further back in third. Nevertheless, as Doyle reminds us, things are never that simple in a multi-event competition.
“In theory [that’s how they should end up], but nothing ever goes to form in a decathlon – there’s tight events where things can go wrong, things can go right, it’s the most unpredictable event in the sport,” he says.
With that in mind, I wonder which events he thinks could be problematic? “A lot of them are that way. Long jump you can miss the board, take off behind the board, you can have a big sway of points in the long jump and in the high jump as well. It’s about more than just no-heights, it’s an event where you can have a really off day and clear 10cm under your best,” he said. “The only events that are reasonably consistent are the three running events.”
Despite all this unpredictability, the American manager tells us this event is still his favourite, himself having been a decathlete while at college. But he certainly doesn’t favour it because of its uncertain nature. “No, that’s why it’s frustrating to me,” he says. “You always wish things go to form.
“It’s my favourite because it’s the most complete event,” he adds. “It tests everything. Everything physical is obvious – strength, power, speed, endurance and stamina throughout the day. But the thing that it tests more than anything is the mental aspects, it tests how strong you are mentally.”
So does he believe both Eaton and Hardee are mentally strong? “Yes they are, both of them,” he says. “You don’t become a two-time world champion like Trey Hardee without being able to keep your mind right throughout the entire two days. Likewise, Ashton Eaton – you can’t be a world record-holder and continue to win everything that there is without having a superior mind.”
There is particular intrigue surrounding this year’s world event as the last real battle between the two athletes was at the 2011 world championships in Daegu when Hardee won his second world gold, beating his compatriot by just 102 points. Eaton had led after six rounds, yet a poor javelin throw and pole vault cost him the lead.
Since then, Eaton has gone on to become the best decathlete of all time, breaking Roman Sebrle’s world record in 2012 before going on to take both world and Olympic titles, while Hardee has since won two more national titles, scoring his second best ever tally when winning US trials in June.
It’s not just their competitive records that have changed either, particularly with Eaton, as Doyle explains: “Ashton has matured a lot since then. Daegu had to happen in order for him to get to the level he is, he needed to learn from Daegu and he had to have failure at a major championships. I know a silver medal wouldn’t usually be considered a failure but Ashton learned a whole lot from that experience to make him the champion he is today.”
If Hardee is to stand any chance of winning, Doyle says consistency will be the key: “Looking at the pure numbers Trey doesn’t have the potential to score as high, so he needs to be closer to his maximum potential in the events in order to beat Ashton and doing that consistently,” he said.
“It can’t just be one bad event for Ashton and Trey have a good one, that’s not going to make the difference, he’s needs to then stay consistent in the nine other events to stand a chance.”