lunes, 19 de marzo de 2012

Ashton Eaton, next man Over 9000 points?


Ashton Eaton at the 2008 US Olympic trials
Photo: Matthew Stockman/ Getty Images North America
http://www.zimbio.com 
       
         In a championship where many of the most well-known track and field stars were absent, the World indoors in Istanbul provided however quite a lot exciting finals. Pushed by compatriot Janay DeLoach, Britney Reese produced an awesome 7.23, the best female leap in 8 years. Also at the jumping events ex-training partners Will Claye and world champion in Daegu Christian Taylor, the two men who are predestined to erase soon Jonathan Edwards from the book of records, offered to the spectators a new thrilling duel. Other impressive matches were seen at the shot put finals, where Valerie Adams claimed her title back against the fierce opposition of defending champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Ryan Whiting sensationally defeated surprising Daegu gold medallist David Storl, reaching for the first time the 22m barrier. As always happen in this kind of contest, some youngsters enjoyed the chance to shine and grab their first senior global titles: Mohamed Aman at the 800m, Genzebe Dibaba at the 1500m and Helen Obiri at the 3000m, the latter denying a fifth consecutive title to the great Meseret Defar. We witnessed also the extraordinary comeback to the top of two stunning Olympic champions, after a couple of disappointing seasons, Yelena Isinbayeva and Pamela Jelimo. Nevertheless the most remarkable feats at the world indoor championships in Istanbul were the world records achieved at the combined events in both sex categories by Nataliya Dobrynska and Ashton Eaton.  
            Since Christian Olsson and Tatyana Lebedeva did it in the triple jump at the 2004 edition in Budapest, we had not seen to break both male and female records in the same event at a world indoor championship.  Interestingly, the last time both pentathlon and heptathlon indoor records were beaten in a competition happened back in 1990, when French Odile Lesage and Christian Plaziat respectively achieved it in Nogent sur Oise. (1) The surprising result of Dobrynska adds still more emotion to the female combined events in the way to London. The Istanbul contest was expected to be a rematch between Jessica Ennis and Tatyana Chernova, after the latter upset the former at last world outdoor champs, but eventually the underdog got the better of both favourites. Ennis, who was widely seen as the most firm Briton candidate for a gold medal at the host Olympic Games prior to Daegu, has now additional mental pressure.      http://moti-athletics-hept-w.blogspot.com.es/2011/09/chernova-upsets-ennis.html   To broke the 20-year-old record of Irina Belova and the 5000-point barrier, the Ukrainian champion benefited of the outstanding quality of a competition in which were present 4 out of the 5 best in Daegu. Thus Jessica Ennis and Lithuanian Austra Skujyte also improved their respective national records and obtained the highest marks ever for a silver and bronze medal positions. (2) Not quite the same happened at the male contest, where Ashton Eaton got a 574 points gap over Ukrainian Kasyanov, who would have finished out of the medals in any other world indoor heptathlon final. The American athlete, who also achieved impressive PBs at the long jump (8.16) and shot put (14.56) and nearly matched it at the 1000m, had to compete on his own just the same he had done when he set his two previous world indoor records in Fayetteville and Tallin so there is a double merit in his feat. Ashton Eaton has accomplished an indoor world record three seasons in a row, raising it from 6476 to a 6645 total tally. Now the Oregon Track Club representative will try to translate his indoor superiority to an outdoor context, that is to say climb a step on the podium from his Daegu silver to gold in London, besides becoming the second man over 9000 points in a decathlon, to break Roman Sebrle's world best. Yet is he ready for the challenge? 

Ashton Eaton, the man who has set a world indoor record in three consecutive seasons
http://community.statesmanjournal.com/blogs/collegesports/2011/04/22/track-and-field-ducks-host-1700-athletes-in-two-day-oregon-relays/ 
                  Ashton Eaton, born in Bend, Oregon, the 21st January 1988, (3) was spotted at a high school meet by Dan Steele, the University of Oregon Associate Head coach. As the athlete recognises, he knew how to run and jump but, prior to his freshman season among the Ducks, he had neither intended to be involved in multi events nor had tried pole vaulting. However his progression was nothing less than spectacular. After only one year of practice with Steele, the responsible of sprints, hurdles, pole vault and combined events in Oregon, he won already the NCAA outdoor title in 2008. To this he would add in successive years two more victories outdoors and two indoors, an unprecedented feat in combined events in the Collegian track and field history, which earned him the prestigious Bowerman award in 2010. (4) Yet Ashton Eaton was not any athlete. Steele describes him like this: "He has got all the right physical tools. But I think the thing that makes him so amazing and so fun to watch is that he has got all the mental, emotional and intellectual tools as well. He has got virtually no ego. He has got an appropriate level of respect for the decathlon. He is humble yet confident. He is a tenacious competitor, yet he can handle losing." (5) Harry Marra, the decathlon national decathlon coach for 10 years who replaced Steele when he moved to Northern Iowa for the 2009-10 season, (6) also realised soon about the special man who was going to be his trainee: "For a guy 22 years old, his mental presence is remarkable." (7) Eaton is known as a cold-blooded, determined athlete, able to master every circumstance in a competition and always deliver his best. He has too an outstanding capacity for learning: even from watching his rivals performing he can quickly manage their technique to make adjustments in an actual competition.
Outsiders also point out how humble and approachable Ashton is, comparing his personality with great champion Roman Sebrle’s. (8) Furthermore he is the perfect track and field companion, someone who always privileges team interests over individual goals. Asked about his best memories in four years competing for Oregon University he did not talk about his five individual titles, world record or Bowerman distinction but about his performance in the 4x400 relay in his freshman year, which helped Oregon to win for the first time the male overall NCAA indoor title. He also had special good memories about just training with his mates. "I remember going up Hendricks Hill with all the guys and the girls, running 300s on the track, the type of things where you are with your teammates the most. When we win, it is awesome, but it is more about the whole process to get to that point. That is where the memories are. Right there." (7) Even at the NCAA championship in 2010, Eaton suggested Vin Lananna he could take four or five single events, instead of the decathlon in order to make points for the team. The Oregon head coach did not accept that sacrifice, only adding a long jump entry to Ashton’s expected presence in his pet event. No wonder such team-oriented and generous athlete has won the heart of another Oregon University multi eventer: Brianne Theisen. The Canadian-born athlete achieved along with her boyfriend a marvellous and never accomplished before swept of the combined events for their college at the 2009 NCAA champs in Fayetteville, repeating the feat the following year both indoors and out. Amazingly, as Eaton states, his girlfriend is not cold-blooded while competing like him but instead has an excited, fire-like behaviour on the track. Theisen, reappeared from injury this winter, has resumed her sensational NCAA curriculum in Nampa and is up for matching Ashton with a five title this summer, besides trying to become the third Canadian heptathlete with the A standard for the Olympic Games, along with Jessica Zelinca and Ruky Abdulai. This sensational success of Oregon multi eventers speaks plainly about the outstanding coaching in the area by Dan Steele first, then Harry Marra.     

Ashton Eaton in company of fiancée Brianne Theisen
http://www.rvgoddess.com/POSTCARDS/2010/Deja/MAY/051610.aspx 
Ashton Eaton competed at the US trials for Beijing Olympics, placing fifth with an 8122 tally, and qualified for the 2009 Berlin World championships, where he finished 18th. However his real breakthrough came at the 2010 NCAA indoor championship, when he broke the 17 year-old Dan O’Brien’s world record. His performance was still more amazing because Olympic champion Bryan Clay and World title holder Trey Hardee went on that same week end to win gold and silver respectively at the world indoor champs in Doha, scoring 300 points less than his young compatriot at the collegian contest. After a stunning victory at the national championships in 2011, with an 8729 huge PB, he went to Daegu as hot favourite of the competition. Living up to his role he slept as the overnight leader but in the second day he failed at the pole vault, clearing scarcely 4.60 and besides Trey Hardee and Cuban Leonel Suárez showed their superiority at the throwing events, displacing Eaton to the third place, before the 1500m. The five times NCAA champion then made an agonistic effort to regain at least the silver medal, which he got by only 4 points, after achieving his only PB of the championship, an astonish 4:18.94.  Trey Hardee successfully defended his title, thanks to his solidity in each one of the ten events. The winner, also a down-to-earth athlete and a superb teammate, encouraged Eaton, who had lost his confidence after his weak performance at the pole vault, and helped him to recover mentally and thus he could still win a medal. (9)  
Now the US decathletes have won every major championship of the last five years, thanks to Bryan Clay (Beijing Olympic Games and the 2008 and 2010 World indoor champs), Trey Hardee (Berlin and Daegu World championships) and Ashton Eaton (2012 World indoors). Therefore it is pertinent to raise the question about a possible sweep of the medals at London Olympics by that sensational trio for the USA. The last time this country accomplished that feat was back in the 1952 Helsinki Games, thanks to Bob Mathias, Milt Campbell and Floyd Simmons. This time around it seems very likely as well provided, as Hardee argues, they all three can stay healthy by the time of the Olympic Games. It was not the case in recent years for reigning Olympic champion Bryan Clay, who was unable to qualify for both Berlin and Daegu due to injuries. However in the 2010 season, when he could compete at his normal level he beat current number one Trey Hardee at the World indoor in Budapest and later won in the summer the classic Gotzis meeting, so he still has chances to defend his Olympic crown. The USA counts also with some brilliant upcoming athletes who can help to maintain further the country dominance in the event. At last year NCAA outdoor championship no less than 6 men (5 of them US athletes) scored 7900 points or more at the decathlon, including Michael Morrison, Miller Moss and Curtis Beach. The latter, who recently struck the indoor title in Nampa, has an incredible 3:59.13 PB at the 1500m and has run also the 1000m in 2:23.63 indoors when his NCAA triumph. And do not forget 19-year-old Gunnar Nixon, who set last January a brand new World Junior indoor record in a competition in Fayetteville
                     In the last couple of years the decathlon has been taken over by a new generation, not necessarily from the traditional countries in the discipline. Nobody in the Czech Republic has been able to replace for the moment Sebrle, Dvorak and Zmelik, and the former powerhouse of the discipline would have enough if Roman, the last survivor of that trio of champions, can assure the A standard for London. Nor much luckier are Germany and Russia. Some key names as Schrader, Muller and Abele in the former team, and Pogorelov, Sysoyev and Vasilyev in the latter, have not been able to perform at their best, because of struggling with injuries, and the officials have need to ask the help of very young athletes as Rico Freimuth and Jan Felix Knobel, both representing Germany in Daegu, and Artem Lukyanenko and Ilya Shkurenyov, third and fourth for Russia in Istanbul. At the 2009 Berlin World championships Trey Hardee with 25 years was the second oldest in the top-10 and something similar is likely to happen in LondonCuba was seen as the nation with the more chances to challenge the Americans with their young standouts Leonel Suárez, Yordanis García and Yunior Díaz. However, the latter has been sidelined by injuries, García has not progressed and Leonel Suárez, the most competitive of the trio when it matters, depend too much of his javelin skills. Then Belarus Andrei Krauchanka, the most talented of the new generation has not have a healthy season in the last three years and Oleksiy Kasyanov has been reduced to Mr Overnight Leader. Currently the men with more possibilities to shine in a near future are all of them born in the 1987, 1988 and 1989 years: Sintnicolaas, Freimuth, Knobel, Bouradaa, Dudas, Mikhan, Van der Plaetsen… All of them are excellent decathletes but with lack of enough experience to get to challenge the powerful US threesome for the medals at the upcoming Olympics. 


100m
LJ
SP
HJ
400m
110H
DT
PV
JT
1500m
PBs*
1
Roman Šebrle
CZE
 9026
Gotzis  27/05/2001
10.64
942
8.11
1089
15.33
810
2.12
915
47.79
919
13.92
985
47.92
827
4.80
849
70.16
892
4:22.00
798






PBs
10.64
942
8.11
1089
16.47
880
2.15
944
47.76
921
13.68
1016
49.46
859
5.20
972
71.18
907
4:21.98
798
 9328
3,3%
2
Tomáš Dvořák
CZE
 8994
ECp Praha  4/07/1999 
10.54
966
7.90
1035
16.78
899
2.04
840
48.08
905
13.73
1010
48.33
836
4.90
880
72.32
925
4:37.20
698






PBs
10.54
966
8.07
1079
16.88
906
2.09
887
47.56
931
13.61
1025
50.28
876
5.00
910
72.32
925
4:27.63
760
 9265
3,0%
3
Dan O'Brien
USA
 8891
Talence  5/09/1992
10.43
992
8.08
1081
16.69
894
2.07
868
48.51
885
13.98
977
48.56
840
5.00
910
62.58
777
4:42.10
667






PBs
10.23
1040
8.11
1089
16.69
894
2.20
992
46.53
982
13.47
1044
55.07
977
5.25
988
66.90
842
4:33.19
724
 9572
7,7%
4
Daley Thompson
GBR
 8847
Oly Los Angeles 9/08/1984
10.44
989
8.01
1063
15.72
834
2.03
831
46.97
960
14.33
932
46.56
799
5.00
910
65.24*
817
4:35.00
712






PBs
10.26
1032
8.11
1089
16.10
857
2.14
934
46.86
966
14.04
969
49.10
852
5.25
988
65.38*
819
4:20.3h
810
 9315
5,3%
5
Jürgen Hingsen
FRG
 8832
Mannheim  9/06/1984
10.70
929
7.76
1000
16.42
877
2.07
868
48.05
907
14.07
965
49.36
857
4.90
880
59.86*
736
4:19.75
813






PBs
10.70
929
8.04
1071
16.57
886
2.18
973
47.65
926
13.84
995
50.82
887
5.10
941
67.42*
850
4:12.3h
865
 9323
5,6%
6
Bryan Clay
USA
 8832
NC Eugene  30/06/2008
10.39
1001
7.39
908
15.17
800
2.08
878
48.41
889
13.75
1007
52.74
928
5.00
910
70.55
898
4:50.97
613






PBs
10.35
1011
8.06
1076
16.27
868
2.10
896
47.78
920
13.64
1022
55.87
993
5.15
957
72.00
920
4:38.93
687
 9350
5,9%
7
Erki Nool
EST
 8815
WCh Edmonton 7/08/2001
10.60
952
7.63
967
14.90
784
2.03
831
46.23
997
14.40
924
43.40
734
5.40
1035
67.01
844
4:29.58
747






PBs
10.34
1013
8.22
1117
15.11
796
2.05
850
46.23
997
14.37
927
45.28
773
5.60
1100
71.91
919
4:29.48
747
 9240
4,8%
8
Uwe Freimuth
GDR
 8792
Potsdam  21/07/1984
11.06
847
7.79
1007
16.30
870
2.03
831
48.43
888
14.66
891
46.58
799
5.15
957
72.42*
926
4:25.19
776






PBs
10.98
865
7.79
1007
16.42
877
2.15
944
48.17
901
14.54
906
51.54
903
5.15
957
73.02*
936
4:23.25
790
 9086
3,4%
9
Trey Hardee
USA
 8790
WCh Berlin  20/08/2009
10.45
987
7.83
1017
15.33
810
1.99
794
48.13
903
13.86
993
48.08
830
5.20
972
68.00
859
4:48.91
625






PBs
10.28
1028
7.88
1030
15.94
848
2.06
859
47.51
933
13.61
1025
52.68
926
5.30
1004
68.99
874
4:42.23
666
 9193
4,6%



























13
Ashton Eaton
USA
 8729
NC Eugene  24/06/2011
10.33
1016
7.80
1010
14.14
737
2.05
850
46.35
991
13.52
1037
41.58
697
5.05
926
56.19
681
4:24.10
785





 8505
WCh Daegu  28/08/2011
10.46
985
7.46
925
14.44
755
2.02
822
46.99
959
13.85
994
46.17
791
4.60
790
55.17
665
4:18.94
819
PBs*



 8457
NCAA Eugene  11/06/2010
10.37
1006
7.90
1035
12.60
643
2.02
822
46.28
994
13.68
1016
41.71
699
4.70
819
54.07
649
4:21.85
799






PBs
10.19
1049
8.16
1102
14.74
774
2.11
906
46.28
994
13.35
1060
47.36
816
5.26
991
57.23
696
4:18.94
819
 9207
5,5%



And now comes the question about Ashton Eaton chances for an Olympic title in London and to break the existing outdoor world record. I had some fun making the table above, in which I compare the decathlon PB of each men who makes the all-time top-10 (including Ashton Eaton, who is actually 13th but is likely to improve on its place soon), with the total amount of his separate PBs in each one of the 10 events which form the decathlon. To create my table I used the IAAF website statistics along with Tilastopaja’s and the IAAF scoring table. (10) However, afterwards I realised on the site decathlon.com they already had an entry with a ranking of the 28th best scorers based in their separate PBs (11), so I used it too.

Dan O’Brien, despite being only third in the all-time decathlon ranking, clearly wins in the extra-official lists for a total tally of 9572, that is to say 681 points more (7.7%) than his PB from the 1992 Talence Decastar, which was at the time a world record, and 748 points over the score which earned him a gold medal at Atlanta Olympic Games. This enormous waste may be explained because of the superiority of O’Brien over every one of the decathletes of his generation and the subsequent lack of serious challenge. The previous number one of the event Daley Thompson was a man who excelled in every running event from the 100m to the 1500m. He was not as stunning at the throw circle but his ability to perform near his best at major championships allowed him to beat fine German contenders from both sides of Berlin Wall as Jurgen Hingsen, Siegfried Wentz, Uwe Freimuth or Guido Kratchsmer, which marks matched the British’s but were not as solid when it mattered most. On the other hand, O’Brien was as good as Daley at running and jumping events, with the exception of the 1500m, and besides was a much more accomplished thrower. Arguably the most talented decathlete ever, O’Brien had no worries about the world record, because he quickly improved it in 1992 and remained invincible for years, not even needing to do his 100%, except when he beat himself at the national trials for Barcelona Olympics, not making any valid jump at the pole vault. After O’Brien’s retirement, the next champions were not maybe as talented as he was but were instead rather effective in a moment every point was necessary because of the quality and quantity of the contenders: Zmelik, Dvorak, Sebrle, Nool, Macey, Huffins… That generation based its success in its consistency in every one of the 10 events of the decathlon, especially at the big occasions. Tomas Dvorak only lost 271 points (3.0%) in comparison to his separate best when he set his PB at the 1999 European Cup and Roman Sebrle missed 302 points (3.3%) when he set the current world record in 2001 in Gotzis. At global championships they also lead the ranking of efficiency: Dvorak scored 8902 points (4.1%) at the 2001 World Champs in Edmonton to beat Erki Nool’s 8815 tally (4.8%) and Sebrle set in Athens the current Olympic record with 8893 points (4.9%) to defeat Bryan Clay, who achieved the best not winning mark ever (8820). Both results bettered the performance of someone like Daley Thompson when he broke the world record in Los Angeles Olympic Games (5.3%).             

The last champions from the USA, Bryan Clay and Trey Hardee can be considered heirs of both the likes of Sebrle and Dvorak and also of national hero Dan O’Brien (even their only weak event is also the closing 1500m, a fact which is becoming a North American trademark). It is worth to say Hardee’s 8790 tally at Berlin Worlds (4,6%), ranks now in second place as the most efficient performance ever in a major championship, only inferior to Dvorak’s in Edmonton. However, Ashton Eaton has changed the trend. The new star of the combined events is not equally consistent in each one of the decathlon disciplines like Sebrle or Clay, but instead he is far more successful running and jumping than throwing just like old-legend Daley Thompson. Eaton has the same wide range on the track and precisely broke last year at the national trials the unofficial Briton’s record from 1986 for the highest amount of points achieved in a competition for the four events which make the group of running specialties. (12) The Oregon Track Club athlete has run the 100m in a world class, though windy, 10.19; the 110m hurdles in 13.35sec, a time no decathlete has ever run in a multi-events competition; the 400m in 46.28; and the 1500m in 4:18.94. None of the best combined event specialist in history can match that. Nevertheless the problem is Eaton is also the weakest thrower among the all-time top-10. It is true he has steadily improved in the last three seasons but still he is 242 points below in shot put- discus- javelin against someone not really special at it like Daley Thompson and he conceded a 326 points handicap to Hardee in Daegu, in a competition Ashton was close to his best in all three throwing events. 
                      In nowadays decathlon the decisive discipline is being precisely the javelin. Sebrle won the gold medal in Osaka ahead of Maurice Smith thanks to deliver in the right moment a 71.18 PB; Leonel Suárez who has a monster 77.47 PB at the event has accomplished a medal at the last three major championships only thanks to his javelin skills; finally Tatyana Chernova threw the implement 13m further than Jessica Ennis for an upset victory in Daegu. With 57.23m at the javelin at his best, along 47.36m at the discus and 14.74 at the shot put, the decathlete from Oregon can not expect neither to win in a major outdoor championship nor break the world record, unless he produces a Jackie Joyner-like groundbreaking performance at the running events and long jump or he follows the example of Carolina Kluft or Nataliya Dobryinska in their best days who are able to set a PB in half of the events in the most decisive championship. However, for the moment Eaton is more likely to fall short like Jessica Ennis in Daegu and Istanbul due to his current limits. It is true Ashton Eaton only started practising throws and pole vault a couple of years ago and still has plenty of room to improve. Besides he is an outstanding competitor and as an example he achieved a PB at the javelin with every one of his valid throws in his first serious combined event competition. He also should make a better display at the running disciplines than he did in Daegu, where he paid being a rookie in a major international contest. Hopefully, the best Ashton Eaton is yet to come and we will have to wait a couple of seasons to witness a mature and increasingly solid athlete breaking the limits of the decathlon and accomplishing sensational victories at Olympic Games and World championships.               

Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu
Photo: AP/ Lee Jin-man
http://www.kitsapsun.com/photos/2011/aug/29/229407/ 







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