2011 USA Outdoor: Ashton Easton, Preview by Chris Vlamynck/Decathlon 2000, note by Larry Eder

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Ashton Eaton, 2009 WC, photo by PhotoRun.net

This insightful piece on Eaton and his relationship with Harry Marra, one of the top coaches on the decathlon in the US (who, along with Fred Samara, developed the VISA Decathlon program in the 90s). Mark my word, this man will be rising up the decathlon food chain for 2012, 2016, 2020.

Next Thursday the trials will start with a man participating in the decathlon that every fan of decathlon is talking about.  This winter he broke the heptathlon world record. If it wasn't of having some trouble in two jumping events, his points total would have stand 200 points higher than the next best performance ever. In a few days he certainly hopes to have those 5 points that Sebrle once mentioned to break a world record. Arriving with a healthy body, good weather, good wind, no injuries and a little bit of ... luck! Ashton Eaton born January  the 21th 1988, height 185 cm and weighing 86 kg has been showing very good form this year.

Eaton a football tailback and a wrestler at Mountain View, had never even heard of the two-day, 10-event competition until late in his career at Mountain View High. "My coach, Tate Metcalf, told me what it was as I was getting recruited to colleges," says Eaton, a state champion in the 400 meters and long jump and second in the 200 as a senior. "I was like, 'Oh, that sounds cool.' Eaton's first decathlon was at Tucson Arizona (6977 points) in 2007 . Little more than three years later, he was ranked second in the world. He is only 23 now, competing on a world stage in a discipline that takes many years to master.

The throwing events are Eaton's only weakness, but he has been working hard on them this year, spurred on by comments that were broadcast to the whole of the USA in 2009! "Since Berlin I have concentrated a lot on my throws," explained Eaton. "After the World Championships I remember going online to watch a recap of the decathlon. The announcer on the broadcast called me 'an abysmal shot putter' and that really fired me up. I want to show that I'm more of a complete all-rounder, not just a sprints and jumps type of athlete."

Ashton Eaton was slogging through yet another frustrating shot put practice when, in disgust, he picked up an indoor shot and threw  it toward a wall. And when he did that, something clicked. The shot came off his hand with more force behind it. Coach Harry Marra was watching. "It was a little crow-hop and he was pushing the heck out of it," Marra said. "He did it kind of sideways and then I asked him to turn it." Eaton adds an extra rotation at the end. Eaton got back into the ring and began to experiment with a shuffle step, molding it into a workable technique that is at the root of his meter-plus improvement since last year. He achieved a new personal best at Tallinn, Estonia, a key piece of his latest world record in the indoor heptathlon. Eaton doesn't think the track world will spin on its axis the way it did when Fosbury revolutionized the high jump. But could it cause a ripple? "Well, maybe for smallish decathletes," Eaton said.

"How innovative is it? Marra was asked. " A lot of young shot putters have used it in the past." Some call it the 'Russian Two Step" or the "skip glide. "The goal of any thrower is to get into a functional position in order to apply forces," Marra said. "We fooled around with it to get him into a functional position. Nine times out of 10, he can apply the force and go. With the glide, he may only get it one out of 10 times."Eaton has improved his personal best from 13m12 to 14m74. "This technique allows me to get more power out of my legs," Eaton said. "It works for him, puts him in a good position" Marra said "His forte is that he's very explosive and dynamic. When he gets into good position he can throw the thing pretty far." In four  meets (this season) he had four PRs." Eaton looks set to smash his PBs in the discus and javelin outdoors this year too. It seems that the throws are getting better every competition. It is also said that Ashton was throwing the Discus 49-50 meters in practice. There are two versions of his improvement  on the 14th of April this year! Doug Binder wrote for Track Focus that Eaton threw 149 feet 2inches and this was calculated 45.50 or 45.51. But 149 f 2 is 45.46 meters! Ken Goe from Oregon where Ashton lives wrote 152 feet 7 inches and this ends with "51" or 46.51 meters. I favor Ken Goe for the two reasons I mentioned and for some replies I read on internet. In the javelin Ashton went this year from 53.93 first to 56.59 and then to 57.23 meters.

Is he a hard working athlete? "Ashton is just a freak of an athlete," says UO teammate Galen Rupp, the national 10,000-meter champion. "It is unbelievable to watch what he does in practice. (Ex-Duck) Tommy Skipper was one of those guys, too. "Ashton also has a great work ethic. The throws and jumps are his weak points, and he has made a great effort to improve on those, and that's hard to do. He has really put his mind to it. That's why he has taken such big steps. He has so much room for improvement. He is still pretty new to the decathlon. At that age, to be competing with guys who are medalists at the Olympics, he has a real bright future."

Should we think of the decathlon champion as the greatest athlete in the world? "It's hard to say," says Ashton Eaton. "There are a lot of really great athletes who don't do the decathlon. I would say (the decathlon champion) is the world's most versatile athlete." Will he win at the trials? Nobody knows, Ashton once said "It only takes one event to screw up, but you also have 10 events to make something happen, you never know with the decathlon."

A little résumé

100 meters. Ashton did a 10.33 with a minus wind(-1.0) and a 10.19 with favorable wind of +2.7 in 2010. Both winds can be acceptable in the decathlon. He increased his speed this winter in the 60 meters and in both distances in the hurdles. The expectation is that under the same circumstances (wind) he can do better this year.

Long Jump. Commenting on his heptathlon this winter Ashton said "I felt I had it in me to jump at least 8.20 but unfortunately I could not do it (in Tallin)." He's pb is still 8.04 meters.

Shot Put. He went from 14.18 to 14.22 to 14.45 to 14.74 (=48'2 ½) (22/2; 28/2; 05/02; 02/04). Last year he stood at 13.12.

High Jump. Personal record 2.11 indoor and 2.05 outdoors. On April 2 when he broke his javelin pr, he did a  very close attempt to 2.12.

400 meters. Pb 46.28 Eugene 2010. This year he ran a remarkable 45.91 sec split time in a 4x400 relay!

110 m Hurdles. April 23: 13.57 (+2.5). May 06: 13.52 (+0.9), it was a rainy day and he was partly disappointed not to have run under 13.4. June 04: 13.35 (+1.8) no athlete participating in decathlon and performing over 8000 points has ever done a better pr.

Discus. From 43.71 in 2010 he went to 44.19 (April 1), then moved to - depending on the source - at least 45.46 (or 149'2). According to Ken Goe 152'7 or 46.51 meters.

Pole vault. Having a best performance of 5.26 meters he did this winter 5.20 in the heptathlon. At a meet in Oregon he tried only one jump and cleared 4.90 immediately .

Javelin. Since 2008 his best javelin was 53.93 meters. In march, he first threw 56.59 and later on April 2 he threw 57.23 meters at Cal Poly. (187'9 ¼)

1500 meters.  The only indication we have, is the fact that Ashton ran a 800 meters in January in 1min 55.90 sec (indoor) and that he had no hare in the 1000 meters when he broke the world record this winter, running a very respectable time of 2 minutes 34.74 - not even showing signs of exhaustion after the race. (When he ran 2 seconds faster in 2010 -  a few athletes ran in front of him, as Beach even broke the heptathlon world record on the distance.)

Here is my estimation for  breaking the American record:

10,25/788/14.51/203/46,31//13,51/45.00/510/56.00/4.19,01 or 8892 points. (Just a fantasy.)

If you want to follow the trials in Europe, you have to count  a time difference of approximately 6 hours.

Chris Vlamynck for Decathlon 2000

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