Ashton Eaton: Why US Olympic Track Star Will Become Greatest Decathlete Ever

Noah JampolFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Ashton Eaton of the United States celebrates as he crosses the finish line next to Oleksiy Kasyanov of Ukraine in the Men's Decathlon 1500m on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ashton Eaton is so good that leaving points all over the place didn't even give his Olympic rivals a glimmer of hope. Just look at how he treated the second day of the London Games' decathlon.

First, he left for an early exit in the pole vault despite a near-perfect series up to that point.

Then, he waltzed it in the 1,500-meter run with a 4:33.59 clocking that was nearly 20 seconds slower than his best.

All those were potential points he just casually left on the table. Oh, and he won by almost 200. That winning decathlon score of 8869 was still the eighth highest score of all time.

When it comes down to it, we are looking at a transformational athlete. One who should reshape the event and take it to a different stratosphere. One who should become the greatest decathlete ever.

Eaton is only 24 years old. He already holds the world record, but if history shows us anything, this is unlikely to be his peak. Of the top five decathletes ever behind Eaton, not one was younger than 26 when he set his personal best.

On top of all that, Eaton has areas in which he can definitely improve. His throws are unlikely to ever be his strength, but that's probably more a function of how absurdly good he is at running and hurdling. Eaton is steadily narrowing the gap of his competitors in the field events.

His personal best in the javelin throw has improved by over 15 feet just this year. His pole-vaulting has also taken a giant leap upwards with a game-changing 9.5 inch improvement just this year. 

Eaton's personal best in the discus throw far exceeds what he's been able to produce so far in his two best decathlons, so that's another area where there's room for an upshot in score.

What truly makes him terrifying is that through all of these improvements in the throws and the technical events, he's still getting faster in the 100 and 400-meter dashes and the 1500-meter run. 

His 100-meter best of 10.21 seconds, 400-meter best of 45.68 and 110-meter hurdles best of 13.35 are truly otherworldly. If Eaton decided the insane 10-event decathlon wasn't his cup of tea and focused solely on any one of those three, he could probably go professional in each one.

If many decathletes are a jack of all trades and master of none, Eaton is a jack of all trades who happens to be a master of a few of them. He already holds the best-ever marks recorded in decathlon for the three aforementioned events.

There doesn't seem to be a real limit to how far Eaton could raise that world record. He's raised his personal best by at least 270 points a staggering three seasons in a row. He keeps setting personal bests in the entire array of events.

At 24, Eaton already has a gold medal and a decathlon world record. He's got a long career ahead of him. He'll have plenty of opportunities to shoot for it, when he doesn't generously leave points on the table.

People have often said the the decathlon champion is the "World's Greatest Athlete." It's always been sort of temporary title, as a new one is crowned every four years.

For Eaton, it might just be permanent.