Ashton Eaton: Decathlon Event Predictions
There are a million reasons to think that the decathlon will never rediscover its place as a marquee Olympic event. It's too spread out, not television-friendly enough, muddied by a complicated scoring system and serially anticlimactic.
There's one reason to think it will: Ashton Eaton.
And he's a mighty powerful reason.
The 24-year-old Oregonian broke the event's 11-year-old world record at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, stirring talk that he could become the face of a discipline that once produced superstars like Jim Thorpe, Bruce Jenner and Dan O'Brien.
Eaton is young enough with enough latent star quality to envision a well-decorated, well-chronicled Olympic career.
The journey starts in London, where Eaton will be a favorite for gold.
With the first day of competition slated for Wednesday, B/R breaks down what to expect from Eaton in each of his ten events.
No decathlete in the world can rival Eaton's pure speed.
Even in his early years on the world track scene, Eaton was one of the top three short-distance sprinters. And he's only gotten better in the years since.
Barring a slip or false start, Eaton should win this event with ease.
Time: 10.25 seconds
Score: 1,035 points
After an erratic performance in the long jump at 2011 Worlds, Eaton has looked sublime so far this year.
He eclipsed eight meters at both the World Indoor Championships and U.S. Trials, posting a personal best of 8.23 meters at the latter.
Results in this event can be erratic, particularly if weather conditions are foul, but Eaton is generally moving in the right direction.
Distance: 8.05 meters
Score: 1,074 points
Total: 2,109 points
Eaton's improvement in shot put has been one of the catalysts behind his growth from rising talent to bona fide medal favorite.
He's gone from back of the pack in 2009 to above average in 2012. It might not sound inspiring in those terms, but that progression has been key.
If he performs well here, Eaton needn't worry about his margin of victory in the sprint events.
Distance: 14.50 meters
Score: 759 points
Total: 2,868 points
Eaton has improved his high jump over the years, but it's been more of a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of trajectory than his usual rocket-ship curve.
For example, his height at the 2012 World Indoor Championships (2.03) was just a centimeter higher than his mark at the 2009 World Outdoor Championships.
That said, he's capable of operating around 2.10 and should be in that range if the jumping weather is good.
Height: 2.08 meters (the exact height is dependent on where the bar starts)
Points: 878 points
Total: 3,746 points
One thing you need to know about Ashton Eaton: Dude can run.
Eaton has dominated the decathlon's 400-meter event since 2011, and finished more than a second ahead of his closest rival at U.S. Olympic Trials.
Score: 983 points
Total: 4,729 points
Like most of the short-distance running events, hurdles came naturally to Eaton.
His personal best in the discipline dates back to 2011—the oldest of his ten event PBs—and he since seems to have plateaued in the mid-to-high-13s.
So long as he doesn't stumble—always a possibility in this perilous event—he should be through with one of the top two times.
Time: 13.75 seconds
Score: 1,007 points
Total: 5,736 points
During his magical run at the U.S. Trials in Eugene, OR, Eaton really only fell flat on one event: discus.
He's capable of throws in the mid-40s, but settled for a 42.81-meter toss at Trials.
I expect a slight rebound in London, something closer to the 46.17-meter distance he registered at 2011 Worlds.
Score: 785 points
Total: 6,521 points
If you're a favorite, this is the event that worries you.
Windy, rainy conditions can wreak havoc on the pole vault, and its placement near the end of the competition can cause all sorts of trouble for tired legs.
That said, Eaton was masterful in this event at U.S. Trials, setting a new personal best. In ideal conditions, there's no doubt he can soar over five meters.
Height: 5.20 meters
Score: 972 points
Total: 7,493 points
Eaton's rise over the last three years has been a product of his improving strength, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the javelin.
The skinny kid who managed just a feeble 50-meter toss at the 2009 Worlds has morphed into a borderline top-ten thrower. Less than a week before the Games opened, Eaton set a new personal best of 61.68 meters at an event in Marburg, Germany.
Distance: 60.05 meters
Score: 739 points
Total: 8,232 point
If you're looking for one part of Eaton's historic performance at the U.S. Trials that might be difficult to reproduce, this would be it.
Spurred on by the same crowds that once cheered him as a collegiate at the University of Oregon, Eaton lowered his personal best by more than four seconds to clinch the world record.
Eaton even said afterwards, that the atmosphere at Oregon's Hayward Field gave him an extra jolt down the backstretch.
The roar of London's Olympic stadium might have a similar affect, but I'm wagering that the Olympic rookie will have expended too much energy in the early parts of the competition to manage an equivalent time.
Score: 832 points
What it all means:
According to my projections, Eaton wins gold and sets a new world decathlon record by 25 points.
But Eaton hasn't showed any signs of regression these last three years. All arrows point up as he enters the biggest meet of his life.