BEIJING – Ashton Eaton got the first day of the decathlon off to a great start in the 100 meters at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships and finished it off with an even better one in the 400 meters.
Eaton, a University of Oregon alum who competes for Oregon Track Club Elite, destroyed the all-time world decathlon best in the 400 by running 45 seconds flat, and made it look like he was in an entirely different race than his competitors. The closest finisher to him was nearly 2 seconds back, a massive gap in a 400-meter race.
Finishing the day with a total of 4,703 points, Eaton had a comfortable 173-point lead going into the second day, and was on pace – barring any disasters in the last five events – to at least threaten the World Championship record of 8,902 set by Tomas Dvorak in 2001, and maybe even his own world record of 9,039.
Eaton got emotional when he crossed the finish line in the 400. Seeing his time on the scoreboard, he yelled and pumped his fist. It turns out what he was feeling at that moment was surprise. Eaton couldn’t believe he ran that fast.
“I thought the clock was off by a second I swear,” a happy but fatigued Eaton joked moments later. “They should go back and check it.”
The previous world decathlon best in the 400 was 45.68, set by Bill Toomey in the thin air of Mexico City at the 1968 Olympics.
Eaton, who is coached by Harry Marra, had an explanation for the extraordinary improvement in his time in the event.
“I did 400 hurdles last year and I ran some 400s against fast guys this year,” he said. “The only difference is they start moving with 200 meters to go, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really tough, but it works.’ I PB’d a couple of weeks before I got here in 45.5 and did that technique. And so Harry and I have been talking, and he said we just have to trust that I will run fast … no way in hell did I think I was running that fast.
“Long story short is you know me, I just go and don’t hold too much back. So I did that and it turned into something completely unbelievable.”
Canadian record-holder Damian Warner managed to stay close to Eaton until the 400, trailing by just 56 points after the first four events. Warner ran a decent time of 47.30 in the 400, but lost a lot of ground to Eaton in that one event. One of Eaton’s other major rivals, two-time World Champion Trey Hardee, the reigning U.S. champion, suffered a lower back injury in the long jump and was forced to withdraw after three events.
Eaton, the defending world and Olympic champion, got his day off to a good start by running a 10.23 in the 100. The time was a record for the decathlon 100 meters at the World Championships, and just .02 off Eaton’s personal best in the event. Warner had the second-best 100 time, 10.31, leaving him just 20 points back.
In the long jump, Eaton started strong, leaping 25 feet, 10 ¼ inches (7.88m) on his first attempt. But his second jump, which looked to be well over 26 feet, was a foul, and he was behind the takeoff board on his third attempt. Eaton’s mark was still the best of any competitor, outdistancing German Michael Schrader by nearly seven inches.
Eaton had a best of 47-7 ¾ in the shot put, three feet shy of his personal record, but a respectable mark. Though Warner recorded a personal best, his throw was three inches short of Eaton’s.
Eaton’s only disappointment of the day came in the high jump where his final clearance was 6-7 (2.01m). Warner went 6-8 ¼, briefly closing the gap with Eaton to 56 points, but the 400 changed that.