Ashton Eaton staked his claim as the world's best all-around athlete with his Olympic gold-medal victory in the decathlon on Thursday. Eaton clinched his victory with a sixth-place finish in Heat 2 of the 1,500-meter run.
Eaton needed to run 4:29.86 in the 1,500 meters for the Olympic record. His personal record is 4:14.48 from the Olympic trials in June. Instead, he ran a 4:33.59. This put him at 8,869 points overall.
Oregonian reporter Ken Goe had this to say following Eaton's victory:
Ashton Eaton wins gold medal in the decathlon, just misses the Olympic record#london2012— Ken Goe (@KenGoe) August 9, 2012
This shouldn't come as a surprise. Eaton broke Roman Sebrle's 9,026-point world record at the U.S. Olympic trials, becoming the second man to ever break the 9,000-point barrier.
His reputation skyrocketed after that performance, and anything less than a gold medal in London would have been a severe disappointment. Eaton didn't disappoint from the start, running a 10.35-second 100-meter dash on Wednesday in the decathlon's opening event.
Eaton continued that pace into the second event (long jump) with an 8.03-meter (26'4.25") leap. That jump earned him 1,068 points and put him at 2,079 overall.
The rest of Eaton's nine-event journey was "ho-hum" by his elite standards. He lacks brute strength and struggled in the shot put and discus, but he earned top-three finishes in the high jump, pole vault and javelin throw.
These finishes put him at 8,148 points overall entering Thursday's 1,500-meter run. Eaton is an established runner, and it wasn't hard to guess the outcome of Thursday's ultimate event.
This gold medal lands Eaton in elite territory among American athletes. He's right there with iconic Olympic athletes Dan O'Brien and Bruce Jenner as the top decathlete for Team USA.
If it isn't obvious already, the decathlon isn't for the faint of heart. Every one of these nine events presents a stiff challenge by itself, and combining them barely seems fair. Eaton put himself on the map in June at the Olympic trials, but this gold medal permanently etches his spot in history.
He's only 24 years old. There's no saying he's done here. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro should be on notice.