EUGENE, OR - JUNE 23: Ashton Eaton competes in the Men's 100 meter dash portion of the decathlon event on day one of the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the Hayward Field on June 23, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
At 2:10 AM Oregon time, decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton starts his ten-event trek toward an Olympic medal with the 100 meter dash. Eaton ran this event at the trials in 10.21 seconds, the fastest ever in a decathlon. More on Eaton after the jump, but first, a recap of Monday and Tuesday:
- Australian Duck Zoe Buckman advanced to Wednesday's semifinals of the women's 1500 meters, in a time of 4:07.83. She has her work cut out for her if she is to make the final, as she has the fifth-slowest personal best of any runner remaining in the field.
- Becky Holliday finished ninth in the women's pole vault final, clearing a height of 4.45 meters. In a show of sportsmanship (sportswomanship?), she stayed on the track after being eliminated to watch her American teammate Jenn Suhr vault to gold.
- Javelin thrower Rachel Yurkovich's games are done, as her best throw of 52.97 meters failed to qualify for the final.
- Matthew Centrowitz's final kick in the 1500 meter final fell just short, missing out on the podium by .04 seconds. Had it been a 1510 meter race, Centrowitz would have passed Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider, but it wasn't to be. Centrowitz tweeted after the race, "Wow. Definitely a hard one 2 swallow. Did everything I could & just came up short. Been a few years since Ive cried but couldn't help it lol" Centrowitz is only 22, and American teammate Leo Manzano won the silver in this race as a 27 year old, so there's a very good chance we will see Matthew back on this stage four years from now in Rio.
With all respect to Buckman, Galen Rupp, and Cyrus Hostetler, who also compete Wednesday in the 1500 meter semis, the 5000 meter prelims, and the javelin prelims respectively, the next two days are about Ashton Eaton. He's poised to be, along with Gabby Douglas and Missy Franklin, a breakout star in American athletics. His world record at the trials made him a recognizable name and face, and it's time for him to cement his place his history with Olympic gold. And it starts with the two events he holds records in: the 100 meter dash, and the long jump. At the 2011 world championships, he got off to an underwhelming start and was unable to come back for gold. At the trials, he put up 2164 points, 254 more than at the worlds, and it propelled him to the world record. Eaton is a new kind of decathlete: capable in the throwing events, elite in the jumps, and unprecedented as a runner. Winning gold means simply keeping up on the field, and putting distance between himself and his competitors when they take to the track. Gold is by no means a sure thing, but Eaton has the best chance of any Duck in the games to bring a gold medal home to Eugene.