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Ashton Eaton didn't know what the decathlon was in high school

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2016 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials - Day 3 Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ashton Eaton holds the title of World’s Greatest Athlete after winning the decathlon at the 2012 Olympics in London as well as the World Championships in 2013 and 2015. But not long ago, Eaton didn't even know what the event was.

According to a story from The New Yorker published yesterday, Tate Metcalf, Eaton’s high school coach, saw potential in his young athlete and believed Eaton’s best path to a Division I college was through the decathlon. And you wouldn't believe what Eaton’s response was.

Metcalf knew it would make Eaton, who was raised by a single mother and had never had any private coaching, one of the first people in his family to go to college. So he suggested it. “Sure,” Eaton replied, as Metcalf recently recalled. Then Eaton said, “What’s the decathlon?”

Now, roughly a decade later, when Americans hear the word “decathlon,” they think of Ashton Eaton. At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Eaton broke the decathlon world record with a score of 9,039 points. Eaton would break his own world record three years later at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, scoring 9,045 points.

The rest of the story from The New Yorker is a fascinating read about the event, and about Eaton’s impact on it.