'Not the greatest yet'

American Eaton wins decathlon title; silver for Hardee

'Not the greatest yet'

Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton lived up to the title of the world's greatest athlete with a dominant 198-point victory on Thursday although the exhausted gold medallist said he felt anything but. 

The two-day 10-discipline epic truly encapsulates the Olympic motto of ‘faster, higher, stronger’ yet Eaton wanted improvement. “For me to consider myself the world's greatest athlete I'd have to really amaze myself in every single event,” Eaton told reporters. 

Decathlon incorporates sprints, jumps, throws and, finally, a 1,500 metres slog that invariably leaves a trail of shattered athletes lying on the track before they pick themselves up for a traditional group lap of honour to celebrate the fact they made it to the end in one piece. 

Eaton, who set a world record of 9,039 points in June, won gold with 8,869, 24 short of the Olympic record. 

His Herculean efforts impressed double Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, who declared himself a legend after retaining his 100 and 200 titles from Beijing. 

“I'm a great athlete but to do 10 events, especially the 1,500 metres, I gotta give it to him,” said Bolt whose every move in the stadium received a rock star reception from the adoring crowd. 

In contrast, the graft of the decathletes went virtually unnoticed at times as they fought for attention against the more glamorous events even though they were the first on the track and the last to leave. 

“I got more sleep than I did in Daegu (at the world championships), six hours, so not bad,” Eaton said of his night after the first day of competition. 

“You have to come through the mixed zone (to talk to the media), then we go in and try to eat. There's physio -- you have to cool down of course because it's 400 metres -- and then travel back to the village is not five minutes, it's 15-20. 

“Eat, ice bath and then by the time you're in bed, you've got to get up early to warm up,” he told reporters. 

Their final event on Wednesday, the 400, was at 2030 local time and the decathletes were back for the 110 hurdles less than 12 hours later with spectators still flooding in through the entrances. 

In a technical discipline that often thwarts the specialists, hurdles clattered to the floor in each of the heats. 

Eaton hit the eighth barrier and grimaced as he desperately lunged to the line, 0.02 seconds behind world champion Trey Hardee who shouted with joy at a personal best time. 

Then the athletes left the track and headed into the dark recesses of the stadium to recuperate before the start of the discus 30 minutes later. “People go back to the village. I chose to stay here and sit in the rest room and eat cold chicken and noodles,” Eaton said. 

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