"BRIGHT PATH STRONG -The Resiliency Of Jim Thorpe" The Fifth In A Series Of Pieces On Jim Thorpe, whose life and legacy will soon be presented in an upcoming Hollywood film! Questions For The Two-Time Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton!


IMG_3174.jpgEugene 2012, Ashton Eaton and Coach Harry Marra, photo by The Shoe Addicts

Ashton Eaton is an Olympic icon. Like Bob Mathias (1948, 1952) and Daley Thompson (1980, 1984), Ashton Eaton won two consecutive Olympic decathlons (2012, 2016). His PB at the decathlon is 9,045 and his PB at the heptathlon is 6,645 (world record). Ashton set 2 world records in the decathlon, breaking the world record of Roman Sebrle (9,026 points, set in 2001), and was the second man (only have been 3) to score over 9000 points. Kevin Mayer, the current world record holder at 9, 139 points is only the third man to score over 9000 points.

Ashton Eaton is not only an iconic Olympian, but an amazing role model. I always enjoyed our discussions and his thoughtful comments on athletics.

Thanks to Ashton and Jeff on putting together this column.

"BRIGHT PATH STRONG -The Resiliency Of Jim Thorpe" The Fifth In A Series Of Pieces On Jim Thorpe, whose life and legacy will soon be presented in an upcoming Hollywood film!

Questions For The Two-Time Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton!

By Jeff Benjamin

A Day in the Life, Ashton Eaton, May 2013, video by The Shoe Addicts for The IAAF (World Athletics)

A century after the greatness of Jim Thorpe, one can appreciate the almost-parallel path of Ashton Eaton, who won the Decathlon Gold Medal in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

Eaton, like Thorpe, had parents of mixed race ancestry.

Eaton, like Thorpe, ran track, played football as well as basketball, soccer, and wrestling albeit while in high school before opting for the Decathlon in College at the University of Oregon.

Eaton, like Thorpe had a meteoric rise to Decathlon Greatness yet it was over a long career, which also included World Indoor and Outdoor Championships as well.

Eaton, EXACTLY like Thorpe, serves a role model for young athletes today.

How Did You Get Started In The Decathlon?

"I wanted to be a lot of things when I was young and many of them stemmed around sport or athletics. For example, I did martial arts because I wanted to be a ninja turtle, I played baseball because I liked Ken Griffey Jr. I played football because we used to watch the superbowl. I wanted to be an Olympian because I saw Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson. I wanted to be a fighter pilot because I watched Top Gun. Overall though the realistic goal was getting to college. Nobody in my family had graduated and we knew it was important to have a better life. By the time I was in high school I was getting recruited to division II and III schools for track and football. In track I was a sprinter and a long jumper. I only did the 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump. One day however my coaches said that think I could get a scholarship to a division I school. The words scholarship and division I rang in my ear. The catch was that it was in an event called the decathlon. I didn't know what that was but my coaches asked if I'd be wiling to try it. I said sure. In high school I never actually did a decathlon though. I just practiced some of the events. I eventually got a scholarship to the university of Oregon and I did my first decathlon in 2007 as an 18yr old freshman. I scored 6977 points."

Shoe Addicts presents: Ashton Eaton Decathlon, video done in 2012, by The Shoe Addicts

How important was the mental approach for you and how did you handle it?

"I'm not going to put a specific percentage on it but it's well over 50% of success in my opinion. The reason I say that is because you have to have talent, of course. But I've seen people more talented than anyone else in the field lose. While there is some attribution to "luck" I think most of it's attributed to how one approaches the event intellectually.

Additionally, if you analyze the decathlon it breaks down like this; the event is 2 days. Each day you start competition about 9:30 am and then end competition about 10:30pm (that was London 2012 schedule). So you're looking at 26 total hours in the stadium. Of that 26hrs though, each individual athlete only does about 6.5 minutes of performance. And, 4.5 of those minutes are running the 1500m at the end. So really you're doing about 1.5 total minutes of output. 10s for the 100m. 3x 5s for the long jump. About 10x 5s for the high jump, etc. It's about 5 seconds of output per event besides the 100m (11s), 400m (48s), 110 hurdles (14s) and 1500m (4.5m). So you're only doing physical work for like 4% of the 26hrs. What's the rest of that time? How you're handling your performance, your placing, your problems, your injuries, your doubts, your fears, etc."

What does Jim Thorpe mean to you?

image1.jpegJim Thorpe, photo by Olympic.org

"Jim is the Prime Mover of the modern decathlon. The Big Bang. Everything comes after him. In good and bad ways he encompasses the character of the event. The decathlon attracts a certain type. And it also takes a certain type, of that type, to reach a high level. As such it acts like a kind of character filter, and the ones that remain are usually like Jim; disciplined, dedicated, curious, tough, resourceful, willing and wanting to challenge, not typically outspoken, and able to have fun. That Jim was Native also means a lot."

I've also shared a link to a video NBC did that does a good job of telling the story:

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