Beijing Stories: Ashton Eaton, The Greatest Athlete on the Planet Earth, by Elliott Denman (from RBR Archives 2015)


Updated January 6, 2017

This originally ran on August 30, 2015. Elliott Denman wrote this on Ashton. It was true then, and is true now. He is the Greatest athlete on the planet. Accept it.

That Ashton Eaton is indeed the Greatest Athlete on Earth is part of a tradtion that dates back to the 1912 Olympics. After watching the decathlon and pentathlon (with LJ, Javelin, 200m, Discus, 1,500m run), both won by Jim Thorpe, the King of Sweden was noted to have said, " You are the Greatest athlete on Earth." Hence, the tradition.

Eaton_Ashton1500W-Beijing15.JPGAshton Eaton, enroute to WR of 9045, August 28-29, 2015, photo by

Aston Eaton set a WR in 2012 at the Olympic Trials in front of the late Milt Campbell, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner, Rafer Johnson, four of the five American decathlon kings who preceded him. In 2015, in Beijing, Ashton Eaton broke that WR, with five events with bigger scores than 2012, and five events with less.

Here is Elliott Denman's piece on Ashton Eaton, the World's Greatest Athlete, and, for my part, one of the classiest human beings on the planet.

Congrats to Ashton Eaton, his wife, Brianne Theisen Eaton and their coach, Harry Marra, one of the grand veteran coaches of our sport.

BEIJING - The Greatest Athlete on Earth reached newer, greater heights last night.
The Greatest Athlete on Earth scored 9,045 points to break his own world record for the decathlon.
The Greatest Athlete on Earth became the main man of the 15th World Championships of Track and Field - often called the third most important athletic event on earth (back only of the Olympic Games and the World Cup of soccer) - and thus became this meet's first - and likely only - athlete to reach a new standard of human achievement.
In a sport whose essence is measurement - of times run, heights leaped,
and distances of assorted weighty objects thrown - The Greatest Athlete on Earth outmeasured any athlete who ever came before him.
In fact, he outmeasured himself in reeling off performances of 10.23 for the 100-meter dash; 25 feet, 10 ¼ inches in the long jump; 47-7 ¾ in the shot put; 6-7 in the high jump; and 45 seconds flat in the 400 meters, all that on Friday as Bird's Nest Stadium-goers began to sense that he was up to something big.
And he continued measuring up Saturday, with performances of 13.69 in the 110 high hurdles; 142-2 in the discus throw; 17 feet and three quarters of an inch in the pole vault; 208-8 in the javelin throw, and an inspired, concluding 4:17.52 in the 1500-meter run.
The Greatest Athlete on Earth had won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympic Games and 2013 World Championships in Moscow.
The Greatest Athlete on Earth had set the listed world record of 9,039 points competing (on home cooking) at the 2012 USA Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
But this was even better. On Chinese cuisine, he added six points to that score and delighted all the home fans (who, let me say, were wonderful throughout these 15th Worlds, appreciating the performances of the meet's global cast, regardless of nationality) by pouring himself into each of his 10 events in astounding fashion.
By the 10th event, however, The Greatest Athlete on Earth might have been expected to show at least some minimum indication of fatigue.
He knew he had to run that 1500 meters somewhere under 4:18 to
achieve what everyone here wanted him to achieve - those
two magnificent letters, "WR," posted next to his final points total.
Through the first eight days of the Worlds, "WR" had not been seen.
But when he gave gallant chase to Larbl Bourrada of Algeria, then
leading the 1500 pack, and nearly ran him down in the final meters,
but didn't quite, all the numbers aligned - 4:17.52, 9,045 - and yes-yes-yes,
"WR" now flashed up on every scoreboard in the Bird's Nest.
Bourrada had run a 4:16.61 of his own, but shared the delight of
the man nearly running up on his heels.
He'd helped the man already recognized as The Greatest Athlete on
Earth solidify - and embellish - that fully-earned status.
News of the world-record performance was quickly transmitted around the world.
These golden details are now fully available to all who'd be willing to appreciate them.
Amid all this joy of accomplishment, there is a sad side, however.
It will be particularly felt in The Greatest Athlete on Earth's own nation,
the United States of America.
Back home, half a world away from Bird's Nest Stadium, I can guarantee
that few will get the chance to recognize this man, this marvel, Ashton James Eaton, six-feet-one tall, 185 pounds, 27 years old, as The Greatest Athlete on Earth.
They will give Ashton Eaton nothing remotely close to the recognition he has earned.
Writing this from China, it is still safe to say is that he likely earned just a line or two in the "other happenings," the miscellany column in your daily newspaper.
Your nightly network newscast?
Forget about it?
Ashton Eaton doesn't play their game.
The people deciding all these things are so downright insulting. They label your news report as "what you need to know." In essence, they're telling you that you do not need to know about Ashton Eaton.
They will consider him just another guy from a sport - track and field - that is no longer recognized as a big-league activity.
They will tell you that if he doesn't play football, doesn't hit baseballs, doesn't shoot hoops, doesn't even kick - or sometimes, even, use his head - to propel a spotted round ball around the old pitch, that he's just an oddity out of a sport that's no longer relevant.
Ashton Eaton, The Greatest Athlete on Earth, is fully aware of this situation.
To his vast credit, he never lets it get to his psyche.
He simply keeps rolling up the points, and lets his own more-than-magnificent performances speak for themselves.
When he knew he'd reached that 'd 9,045th point, he was reduced to tears. And they flowed and flowed as he (a) climbed a barrier into the stands to seek out and hug wife Brianne, and family; Brianne had earlier earned the silver medal in the women's heptathlon for Canada: (b) proudly draped himself in an American flag as if it were item of official team attire,
and (c) went out of his way to shake hands and embrace the 21 other men who'd just completed the 10-event, two-day test of body, soul and mind with him.
As Saturday afternoon rolled on, the cumulative fatigue factor began kicking in. For the first time, he began to have doubts.
And here's exactly where Ashton Eaton again proved he was The Greatest
Athlete on Earth.
He rose to the occasion as all great champions do.
"I got all fired up," he told people.
"I don't know (if it's) for any reason, but where do you find that inner strength?
" I don't know but you have to search for it and dig anyway.
"Still, in the 1500, I was having doubts if I could run that fast.
"It's been two years since I've done a (full) decathlon like this (his last completed 10-eventer was the Moscow Worlds of 2013,)
"These are 12 hour days.
They're never easy.
"But fortunately, I have a lot of people who believe in me. My coach, my physio, my wife, my family, they're all here and they said, 'hey! You can do this!' And I said, 'all right. I believe you. I'll do it for you.' "
And The Greatest Athlete on Earth did just that.
They often ask The Greatest Athlete on Earth just how good he might be at some other sport. As if he'd have to measure up in the other guys' games to justify his own status.
But they'd never, ever even dare ask those other guys just how many points they might score in a decathlon, Ashton Eaton's game.
"I don't know about that and you almost don't want to go there," said Harry Marra, coach of the Greatest Athlete on Earth.
"It's scary to think, but maybe in some smaller meet, which isn't as long and hot and tiring as this one, let's just say he runs his score up to 9200, to 9300, whatever.
"Who knows?
"It's scary to think that maybe that record may never be broken.
"It's scary to think that, because the guy might possibly (be able to) do that, will never have tried track and field.
"He'll be a baseball guy, a football guy; a guy doing that because he makes a million dollars, a billion dollars."
But that's pure speculation, way beyond the wild blue yonder.
And why even bother?
We saw The Greatest Athlete on Earth - his name is Ashton Eaton - in action Friday and Saturday at Bird's Nest Stadium.
We're telling you all this right now, because we know, with absolute
certainty, that very few other people will.
At the Victory Ceremony Sunday night, The Greatest Athlete on Earth
was presented a $100,000 check for the world-record performance.
This might have been pocket change for some others whose names are
forever in your headlines. It was received with overwhelming gratitude
by The Greatest Athlete on Earth, whose name may never
make it into you own local headlines.

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