Ashton Eaton passes the test to win second straight Olympic decathlon gold | Rio 2016 | The Guardian

    In the end, Ashton Eaton was second only to his biggest competitor: himself.

    the 28-year-old from oregon became the third decathlete in history, and the first since great britain daley thompson in 1984, to repeat as champion in the most grueling physical test of the olympic games and retain the nominal title best athlete in the world. Kevin Mayer was second with 8,834 points for France’s second medal in the event after Ignace Heinrich’s silver at the 1948 Games. Canada’s Damian Warner, Eaton’s runner-up at last year’s World Championships, took the bronze with 8666.

    mayer had moved within 44 points of the overall lead in the penultimate event of the night with a javelin throw of 65.04m, more than five meters further than eaton’s best attempt. That meant he needed to beat Eaton by seven seconds in the event’s closing 1500m to overtake him on the podium, but the defending Olympic champion and world record holder used a surge on the final lap to finish two seconds ahead of Meyer in fourth place with a season best time of 4min 23.33sec. As he circled the track in victory draped in an American flag, the skies above the engenhão opened up and it began to rain.

    “I’m glad it wasn’t just an easy walk,” said a beaming Eaton afterward in the mixed zone, his fluorescent-colored pointe shoes laced up and dangling from his neck. “The decathlon is never easy. the young Frenchman was there to push me. I’m glad I passed the test.”

    eaton failed only by falling short of the all-time record he set at last year’s worlds, where he finished with a total of 9,045 to break his own mark by six points. But he equaled the Olympic record of 8,893 points, first set by Roman Sebrle in Athens 2004, with his late drive in Wednesday’s final event.

    He then said he was “aware” of the history at stake and tried harder knowing what it would mean for his former coach, Harry Marra, and sounded baffled to match the great Czech. “when you look at all the little centimeters out of 10 (events), it’s like: how can there not be a stinky dot somewhere?” he said. “But this is the decathlon, guys.”

    a heavy favorite in rio after podium finishes in london and at the last two world championships, eaton’s only moment of serious danger came when he failed his first two attempts in the pole vault at 4.90m. a third miss would have left him with zero points, effectively ruining his medal hopes.

    “That was the moment I thought, ‘Your whole life has been about this, preparing for this. What are you going to do?’” said Eaton, who also holds the world record in the indoor heptathlon. “it was a good test.”

    After propelling his 6-foot-1, 190-pound form over the bar on his third attempt and a first-down clearance to 5.20m, Eaton went straight to 5.40m. he ended up settling for the points at 5.20m after three failed attempts at that height, keeping him on track for a record night. That’s when Mayer overtook Warner and took the silver position with a clearance of 5.40m.

    The previous Thursday, Eaton placed eighth in the discus throw with a throw of 45.49m, a step up from his 22nd place in London. He scored significant points when he finished second in the 110m hurdles among the 25 competitors still in contention, down from the 32 who started, with a time of 13.58 seconds.

    Oregon had entered Thursday with a 121-point lead after a typically dominant performance on Day 1. he had won the long jump by 25cm and the 400m in a time of 46.07 seconds, half a second better than the field and a full second better than his time at the london games. He had also finished second in the event’s opening 100m, just 0.16 behind Warner and the only time he had fallen behind in the two-day competition. only relatively average performances in the shot put (where he finished 10th) and, surprisingly, in the high jump (where he finished tied for 14th after finishing second in london) kept his opponents in from the start.

    Eaton is the latest, and perhaps greatest, in America’s long line of Olympic decathlon winners, which included a run of six consecutive gold medals between 1932 and 1960. But Thursday’s second crown gives him one more than towering figures like Jim Thorpe (who won it in 1912), Rafer Johnson (1960), and the athlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner (1976). Only Bob Mathias, who captured the title at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics and later represented California in the United States Congress, had won it twice until the Thompson Twofer in 1980 and 1984.

    “They gave me something to shoot for,” he said. “Those guys are great.”

    He was further inspired by his wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who improved from her 11th-place finish at the London Olympics to win a bronze medal on Saturday night. “Brianne walked into Harry’s office four years ago and said, ‘I’m doing this to get the 10 or 11 more,'” she recalled. “For her journey to start there, to say ‘I want to be on the podium’ and to realize that four years later, it was amazing. I’m glad I was able to watch every second. that we did this together… I can’t express it.”

    eaton said he’ll spend the next few months physically and mentally decompressing from a previous period he described as “difficult,” but he’s not sure what comes next.

    “I can’t tell,” he said with a wide smile. “I didn’t set any goals for myself beyond this.”

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