Oregon, Jun24: Meter by meter, Ashton Eaton kept swallowing up real estate on a track that has always felt like home.
Second by second, the clock to the side of that track ticked away—daring him to cross the finish line in a time that would put his name in the record books.
Eaton was every bit as relentless and stubborn as that clock Saturday. He set a personal best in the exhausting 1,500-meter finale and is now the world-record holder in the decathlon—the cream of the crop in the event that determines the world's best athlete.
Eaton finished with 9,' points in the U.S. Olympic trials Saturday to beat Roman Sebrle's 11-year-old mark by 13 points.
“This is just crazy,” Eaton said.
The 24-year-old University of Oregon product needed a time of 4 minutes, 16.37 seconds in the 1,500 to break the mark at the school's Hayward Field. He finished in 4:14.48.
When it was over, Eaton bent down and put his hands on his knees, then brought them up to cover his mouth—elated and shocked all at the same time.
A few minutes later, he took the mini American flag he'd been handed as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and stabbed it into the turf near the scoreboard on the field that displayed his accomplishment: “World Record Decathlon. Ashton Eaton. 9,' points.”
“I wanted it to be a special event because this is my home state, my hometown, my home university,” he said. “And just from the start, I just wanted to perform well.”
Eaton now goes to London as the favourite for Olympic gold, along with the man he beat, defending world champion Trey Hardee, who finished 656 points back.
“Going into London, I'm not going to change a thing,” Eaton said. “Clearly.”
Chances for an American medal sweep in London, thought to be a good possibility, were vanquished when defending Olympic champion Bryan Clay fell during the hurdles. He finished 12th.
Eaton opened the event by setting world-best marks for the decathlon in his first two events, the 100 (10.21 seconds) and long jump (27 feet).
He had a mark of 46 feet, 7 ¼ inches (14.02 meters) in shot put, cleared 6-8 ¾ (1.83m) in the high jump and ran the 400 in a driving rainstorm in 46.70 seconds to finish the first day in the mix for the world record.
He returned Saturday to equally dreary weather, but didn't slip. The results: 13.70 seconds in the 110 hurdles, 140-5 inches (42.67-meters) in the discus, and 17-4 ½ (5.18m) in the pole vault. His javelin throw of 193-1 (58.83m) meant he would need to top his personal best by at least 2.57 seconds in the 1,500.
The sun finally peaked out shortly before Eaton made it to the starting line, illuminating his green and black shirt and neon-orange shoes. He stayed on pace the entire time and crossed the line with nearly 2 seconds to spare.