The Incredible Theater of the Decathlon at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, by Elliot Denman, note by Larry Eder

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The decathlon yesterday gave us a World record of 9039, by Ashton Eaton. In attendance were all the living US Olympic gold medalists in the decathlon. Also, many of the top coaches, including Fred Samara and Harry Marra, the coach of Ashton Eaton.

Elliot Denman, wrote his column on the depth of the decathlon and the increadible human theater that encompasses the ten events.


Clay-Eaton-HardeeHH-OlyT12.JPGClay, Eaton, Hardee, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net

By ELLIOTT DENMAN

EUGENE, OREGON
June 23, 2012


What drama, what glories,what ups, what  downs.

What good, great and  even greater stuff - along with, darn-it,  some downers - in between.

What incredible theater this 2012 Olympic Trials decathlon truly was.

Some say it was straight out of Hollywood. Others counter that Hollywood couldn't really script  anything this good.

As the scenario evolved, one man, Ashton Eaton, was proving himself the finest  all-around athlete on the planet, another man, Bryan Clay, who'd once held the same designation - and had all the Wheaties boxes to prove it - was headed for the exits.

Clay-Eaton-Hardee100M-USOlyTr12.jpgClay, Eaton, Hardee in the 100m, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net



The numbers prove everything: 10.21, 8.23. 14.20, 2.05, 46.70, 13.70, 42.81, 5.30, 58.37, 4:14.98, 9,039, 6-22-23-12.

The Enigma Code?

No, that's what the astounding Eaton did in two sizzling day at Hayward Field.

Yes, sizzling, even though it seemed to be raining half the time.

No human had ever done better than 10.64, 8.11, 15.33, 2.12, 47.79, 13.92, 47.97, 4.80, 70.16, 4:21.98,    9,026, 5-26-27-01.

That was the Czech Republic's Roman Seberle.

No one else had ever cracked the 9,000 figure before.  But now that it's cracked, look for Eaton, that  marvel from Mountain View (Oregon) to continue shredding it into further oblivion.

Seberle was rightfully called the best of the best of the  best when he did it. He'd  carried that crown with major modesty for the last 11 years.

Now the do-it-all Eaton has proven this Noblest Roman Of Them All merely mortal.

Clay surely will go down in the deca-books as one of the all-timers.

No one has yet won three Olympic decathlon medals. And Clay (gold medalist in 2008, silver medalist in 2004) was surely headed in that direction.

Until his run-in with disaster.

A subpar 51.21  400 meters concluding Friday's action indicated that something in Clay's readiness quotient was in big-time disarray.

And then the tremors  truly struck,

At the 9.30 am kickoff to the decathlon's second day, the 110-meter high hurdles paved Clay's way to disasterland.

A false start had sent the whole starting field into a sour mood. The gun went off with the four-man field intact, but Clay was never really in contention to catch Eaton.

Now, shock loomed at the ninth hurdle.  Clay clobbered it, somehow kept his footing, but crashed into the 10th barrier and seemed to push it over with his hands, never a legal thing to do.

Clay_BryanHH1d-USOlyT12.jpgClay hits the 10th hurdle, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net


At first announcement, this merited a DQ from the event and zero points, meaning there'd be no way in the world he could recoup this lost territory. But then the DQ was un-DQ'd and he was credited with 644  points.

So this kept him in the running - in everywhere but his head.

In the next-up discus throw, Clay - usually a sensational disco-whirler thrower for a smaller man - got off no legal throws and thus, for real this time, zero points. After that hurdles thing, his mind "just wasn't into it."

And so he was done for.

His subpar numbers at this fate-filled meet: 10.45, 7.40, 15.63, 1.96, that 15.21, that 16.81, that zero, 4.80, 66.80, 5:09.62, 7,092.

That eventually finished him in 12th place, and nowhere close to London.
The deca-world  will continue to await its first-ever three-time Olympic medalist.

Eaton won an amazing seven of the 10 deca-events outright, decimating deca-marks right and left. He opened with deca-world records in the 100 and long jump. And kept right on rolling.
 
Look for him to score past 9,100, into the 92s, maybe 93s before he hangs 'em up.

Which, hopefully, won't be for eons. Or at least the Games of three more Olympiads beyond '12.

Appropriately, his support team is highest quality and will keep him going - forever, let us hope.

His personal coach, Harry Marra, knows these 10 events frontways, backways and sideways.

His legions of U. of O.-based fans -  "once a Duck, always a Duck" they proclaim - are world-class.

Even the other deca-men - who may never ever breathe a threat to him from here on out - get behind his cause.

As the final lap of the 1500 unfolded, it was the other decathletes who wished him on-on-on more than any others on the premises. Duke man Curtis Beach respectfully waved him on past in the final meters of the 1500, his personal contribution to deca-history.

Eaton_Ashton1500M-OlyT12.JPGAshton Eaton 1500m, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials
Photo by PhotoRun.net

He chief urger - up on high kin the Hayward Field stands - was Mr. Decathlon himself, Professor Frank Zarnowski (Mount St. Mary's/ Dartmouth) - reminding  the fans and everyone else on the premises just how much time he'd need to decimate the deca-books.
 
From the beginning, Fred Samara knew that something big was in the works, Here's another man who should know. Twice a National deca-king and a 1976 Olympian, the Princeton coach had told folks befoe it all started that "there's no doubt in my mind that Eaton is getting that world record."

He may not have had his numbers down pat, but he sure did have the general idea.

All this was perfect timing from yet another angle.

The Olympic decathlon was first staged at Stockholm in 1912; the winner Mr. Jim Thorpe himself.

So on this centennial celebration of decatlhonship, the USATF and Oregon Trials organizers made sure that Jim Thorpe's children were in the stands to see this theater unfold.

And in their company for this command performance were  past USA Olympic deca-kings Milton Campbell, Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner and Dan O'Brien.

The late Glenn Morris and the late  Bob Mathias would surely have loved this show, too.  Along with Rafer Johnson, they went on Hollywood roles.

Will the Ashton Eaton story ever make the big screen? Or even the smaller version?

As Eaton heads to London, we'll tell you that he  deserves an invitation to Hollywood, too.

Bryan Clay deserves such celebrity treatment as well.

Likely, this was the final decathlon of his oh-so-brilliant career.

It's not the exit he would have planned.

It was downright debilitating to the morale of those who've tracked his sports career this past decade.

Truth be told, it was a downright awful way to hang 'em up.

Yup-yup-yup, it was saddening.

Bruce Jenner, for one, keeps busy filming reality shows. But his kind of reality could never match up with this version.  As we told you at the top of this essay, this was the real-real-real thing.

Really-really-really.

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