Ashton Eaton is a 22-year-old student at the University of Oregon. He scored 6499 points in the heptathlon at the NCAA championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Saturday, breaking Olympic gold medalist Dan O'Brien's 17-year-old mark mark of 6476 points. Eaton's total was also almost 300 points better than IAAF world indoor championships winner Bryan Clay's score at Doha, the same weekend.
"I didn't think I had what it took to get it," Eaton, told reporters after running a life-time best 2:32,67 in the concluding 1000 meters to wipe out O'Brien's record."For a collegiate athlete to score that many points....," Oregon assistant coach Harry Marra said. "That's a lot of points."'
Eaton had five personal bests in the two-day event, running 6,71 seconds in the 60 meters, long-jumping 7,73 meters (pb 7,85 meters outdoors) and 2,11 meters in the high jump, 7,77 in the 60 meters hurdles, his other marks were 13,12 meters for the shot put and 5,10 meters in the pole vault, both his best ever in a multi event. Ashton has an indoor pole vault pb of 5,26 since 26 February 2010 (Seattle WA).
Asked last weekend about his feelings after the world record Ashton said “if asked before, I would have said ‘Eventually I try to break the world record’ but actually doing it is incredible”. If that thought was already in his mind on Saturday? “Not yesterday, but today, yes because yesterday was so good. I pr’d like I was on pace. I said if I do a good hurdles and do a good pole vault – I can do it.”But after the pole vault Ashton knew he had to run 2.34 (2.34,58 at least to break the world record with one point.) Ashton said “I thought there is no way I can do 2 minutes 34 sec, because my best was 2.38,02 and that was already hard enough … but everyone was behind me and some of the good runners said “stay with us and you do it” so I said it’s for the world record! Screw that doubt about 2.34, I go for it. I started running and I felt amazing!” “It was like, ‘Holy, crap. I guess I was going to run as fast as I could.’”
Eaton said he tried to stick with North Carolina’s Mateo Sossah for much of the race to stay on a 31-second lap pace. As Eaton crossed the start-finish line after each lap, the public address announcer would announce he was still on the record-breaking pace. Eaton heard those motivational reminders. He also saw his time on the big clock next to the track. “I could see the clock every time,” Eaton said. “I thought, ‘I’m in the money now.’ ” “And the last lap, you knew?” asked a reporter “Yes I knew it” he responded. “There was one thing I heard in my head “world record, world record, world record”. Another voice said “I’m tired, slow down” but I answered in my head “No” and I continued with the world record voice.”
“How does that motivate you for the future – for the decathlon”. “It will take a lot of me to be consistent that way. In fact I don’t know what I can do now, but what I can do is having the same attitude. Go for my goal that is 8400-8500 points.” About his girlfriend and pentathlete Brianne Theisen (14th performer this year with 6396) he said “she’s kind of opposite of what I am. Honestly she’s way better a competitor than I am. It’s not that I’m not competitive but I can stay calm while she’s nervous about things.”
There are similarities between Roman and Ashton. Both are very modest and approachable! It reminds me of Mei 2001 when I was in Götzis. Three days before he broke the world record I was sitting on the grass with him, he was doing some stretching at the end of a workout. The year before I saw him there become the number seven in the world, so I was wondering how he felt and asked “do you think you will do eight-eight (8800)”. His shoulders moved up and down and with a twinkle in his eyes he gave a look that said “maybe more?”. I was very curious, so I asked again “eight-nine?” He was very calm and again the shoulders, again the same look! My eyes felt open, surprised I said “ninethousand … ?” Modest as he is, he said immediately “No, no that probably will be to high” but afterwards I understood that he was so hopeful and so confident that weekend. Anyway after gaining 5542 points in the heptathlon, Ashton had the same problem as Roman after 8228 points in the decathlon that last weekend in Mei 2001. Can I break my personal record in the last event? The last event is a killer. With the crowd on its feet urging him on,
Eaton surpassed the old record of 6476 by running a personal best in the 1000 meters to finish with his excellent time of 2.32,67. The same thing happened in Götzis. Thousands of people in the stadium became a choir when the 1500 started, repeating “Roman, Roman”. People most have heard this miles away from the stadium. Both excelled an did better than they had to, to break the world record. For Ashton, a time that was 5 sec 35 better than his pb, for Roman 6 sec 81.
Both where modest and gave credit to other athletes for the last event. Like Ashton talks about the athletes who urged him to stay with them to do a good run, I remember one of the first things Roman said to the press after his world record was, that he was eternally grateful to Attila Zsivoczky running with him in the 1500m.
Funny guys to, those world record holders. Ashton wasn't sure how to feel after setting a world record. "I don't know," Eaton said. "I've never had one before." Sebrle when asked if he thought about the world record during his Götzis effort. “Yes two times. The first time after the long jump...” …And the second time they asked Roman? “After the thousand five hundred meters!” he replied.
Chris Vlamynck for Decathlon 2000