EUGENE, Ore. — Ashton Eaton likes to compare decathlons to life — the ups and downs, the good and bad, the setbacks and comebacks.
Over two dreary days at the Olympic trials that finally ended with a bright ray of sunshine Saturday evening, Eaton found out just how good life can be.
He’s the world-record holder in the decathlon, the cream of the crop in the hallowed and history-filled event that has long identified the world’s greatest athlete.
Needing a personal best in the grueling finale, the 1,500 meters, to get the record, Eaton came through, running the last event in 4 minutes, 14.48 seconds to finish with 9,039 points and beat Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old mark by 13 points.
“It’s like living an entire lifetime in two days,” Eaton said. “It doesn’t mean that much to the rest of the world, but to me, it’s my whole world. To do the best that I possibly could in my world makes me pretty happy.”
Eaton joined the likes of Bruce Jenner, Dan O’Brien, Bob Mathias and Rafer Johnson among the Americans who have held the world record. He did it on the 100th anniversary of the first Olympic decathlon — and many of the American greats who have made history in the event were on hand to watch Eaton.
“I thought he showed some real courage,” Johnson said. “He hung in there and figured out a way to win. He was brilliant in everything he did.”
He did it in terrible weather — drizzle, rain, cold and then, finally, sunshine as he got ready for the final 1,500-meter push.
“It’s like the 11th event,” runner-up Trey Hardee, the defending world champion, said about the weather. “I hope when they put his name in the record books, they’ll put every parenthesis, asterisk and every other mark you can put down. Every athlete out there tries to act like that stuff doesn’t bother them, but it does.”