Having missed on his first two attempts at 4.90 meters in the pole vault, Ashton Eaton was aware of what stood in the balance should he fail to succeed in his third try at the height.
“That was the moment I thought, all right, your whole life has been about this,” he said. “Get ready. What are you going to do?”
He’d clear the height. In the next event, the javelin throw, he faced a similar dilemma: Eaton hated his first toss and was only moderately pleased with his second.
His third, at 59.77 meters, was good enough.
And he entered the final event of the decathlon, the 1,500 meters, with only 44-point lead on Kevin Mayer, a 24-year-old Frenchman with designs on upending the decathlon’s status quo.
Mayer put Eaton “to the test,” he said. So he ran the 1,500 in 4:23.33, fourth-best among competitors, to seal his second gold medal.
“I’m glad I passed the test,” Eaton added.
In a discipline where little seemed to come easy, where third attempts “got dicey,” where Eaton had his fair share of ups and downs — relatively speaking — the world’s greatest all-around athlete still won gold, in the process tying the Olympic record with 8,893 points.
No, it wasn’t easy. Eaton simply makes it look like a breeze.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I was willing to run myself into the hospital if I had to.”
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SOURCE: USA Today, Paul Myerberg