The World’s Greatest Athlete, Ashton Eaton, Retires In His Prime; We Pay Tribute With Our 5 Favorite Ashton Eaton Memories
January 4, 2017
The world’s greatest athlete has retired.
You can quibble about whether that title, traditionally bestowed on the Olympic decathlon champion, belongs to Ashton Eaton or Cristiano Ronaldo or Simone Biles or someone else. But what is inarguable is Eaton’s greatness. No decathlete put together a better career than Eaton, 28, who officially announced his retirement from the sport on Wednesday. His accomplishments: two Olympic decathlon titles, two world outdoor decathlon titles, three world indoor heptathlon titles and five world records (two in the decathlon, three in the heptathlon). From the start of 2012 until his retirement, he won every multi-event competition he completed. Quite simply, he was the greatest multi-eventer the world has ever seen.
“Frankly there isn’t much more I want to do in sport,” Eaton wrote in his retirement announcement on his website weareeaton.com. “I gave the most physically robust years of my life to the discovery and pursuit of my limits in this domain. Did I reach them? Truthfully I’m not sure anyone really does. It seems like we tend to run out of time or will before we run out of potential. That makes humanity limitless then, as far as I’m concerned. And I think that’s inspiring.”
Eaton was known not just for brilliance on the track and in the field, but for his energy, enthusiasm and class.
“As a highly competitive person, it’s hard to lose to anyone,” 2009 and 2011 decathlon world champ Trey Hardee wrote on Twitter. “But if I am to lose, I couldn’t imagine a better person to lose to than him. He’s passionate, he loves and respects his fellow competitors, he treats people SO well, he’s gracious at all times, he’s AMERICAN!, he’s absolutely a great representation of what a decathlete is. A decathlete that constantly strives for perfection, seeks greatness through self improvement and sees potential in everything.
“He carried the legacy flag of American decathlon champions and stuck it in the ground atop Everest.”
— trey hardee (@treyhardee) January 4, 2017
Eaton’s wife, Canadian Olympic heptathlon bronze medallist Brianne Theisen-Eaton, 28, also announced her retirement on the couple’s website. Together, the two had ruled as the first family of track and field for the first half of the 2010s.
Ashton Eaton did not announce future plans, but updated his Twitter biography, noting that “Being the 1st person on Mars would be cool.”
Below, we’ve listed our five favorite moments from Ashton Eaton’s stellar career.
(Talk about Ashton’s career on our world famous fan forum / messageboard here: MB Ashton Eaton retires)
5) Olympic title #1
Eaton entered the 2012 Olympics as the heavy favorite, less than seven weeks removed from setting the world record at the U.S. Olympic Trials. It only takes one mistake to ruin a decathlon, and the pressure Eaton faced was enormous. But he came through like a champion, scoring 8,869 points to win handily over countryman Hardee and join Dan O’Brien, Bruce Jenner, Rafer Johnson and Bob Mathias among the ranks of American decathlon immortals.
4) Eaton’s 2014 season in the 400 hurdles
Okay, so this isn’t one moment, but we’re including it anyway as Eaton’s foray into the 400 hurdles was a perfect demonstration of his freakish athleticism. With no outdoor global championships in 2014, Eaton was looking for a new challenge after winning the heptathlon at World Indoors in March. He found it in the 400 hurdles, an event that isn’t even in the decathlon. Eaton ran the first 400 hurdles race of his life on April 19, 2014, at the Mt. SAC Relays, clocking 50.01 for fourth place.
Less than two months later, he had shaved almost a second off his PR and on June 11 in Oslo, he won the 400 hurdles at the Bislett Games in 49.16, defeating Johnny Dutch, who would go on to claim the U.S. title two weeks later.
Eaton broke 49 in Ostrava on June 17 and finished his season by running 48.69 in Glasgow on July 11, making him the ninth-fastest man in the world for 2014.
3) Eaton’s first world record
By March of 2010, Eaton had already established himself as one of the NCAA’s all-time great multi-eventers, with one heptathlon and two decathlon titles, but it was his performance at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., that catapulted him to global stardom. In that meet, Eaton didn’t just smash his own collegiate record, set two months earlier in College Station; he broke the world record, scoring 6,499. That score would have won the World Indoor Championships — which were being held the same weekend in Doha — by 295 points.
2) Eaton’s 45.00 400 in Beijing
Thirty-six men ran 45.00 or faster for 400 meters in 2015. Only one of them did it after completing four other events earlier in the day. Eaton’s 45.00 at the end of Day 1 at the World Championships in Beijing smashed Bill Toomey’s 47-year-old world decathlon best of 45.68 and set him on course to break his fifth and final world record (he finished with 9,045 points).
““I thought the clock was off by a second, I swear,” Eaton told USATF after the race. “No way in hell did we think I was running that fast. I thought 46-flat, maxed out. But I saw some decathletes in the heats before running some pretty good times, so long story short it is, you know me. I just go and don’t hold too much back. So, I did that with the technique and all, so it turned out something unbelievable.”
Video of Eaton’s 45.00 starts at 2:15 in the video below or here.
LRC 2015 World Champs Day 7 Recap: Dafne Schippers & Ashton Eaton Set the Track on Fire; Tianna Bartoletta Wins LJ Gold with PB on Final Attempt
LRC 2015 World Champs Stop Us If You’ve Heard This Before: Ashton Eaton Breaks the World Record, Usain Bolt Completes the Triple and the U.S. Botches a Handoff
1) Eaton’s decathlon WR at the 2012 Olympic Trials
There were so many special elements about this performance. First, the venue: Hayward Field, Eaton’s college track and training base throughout his professional career in Oregon, his home state. Second, the unlikelihood. Eaton had never won a global decathlon title. Even after he won the heptathlon at World Indoors that year, those who tipped him for Olympic gold expected his greatest performance to come in London, not Eugene. Third, the finish. Entering the 1500 meters, the entire stadium knew that Eaton was within striking distance of the world record. He needed to run 4:16.23, over two seconds faster than his personal best of 4:18.94.
Eaton entered the final lap needing to break 64 seconds for the record and kicked hard. As he powered down the home stretch, race leader Curtis Beach politely moved aside to allow Eaton to cross the line first, and the crowd went insane as Oregon’s native son ran 4:14.48 to set a new decathlon world record of 9,039.
The 100 (10.21, then a decathlon world best) and long jump (8.23m/27’0”, still a decathlon world best) were Eaton’s best events at the Trials, but for the thousands of fans watching on a rainy day in Eugene, his four-second personal best in the 1500 is the one that they’ll remember years from now.
Here’s a video from one of those fans in the stands that day:
Here is Tom Hammond’s call of that WR:
We’ll also give his win at World Indoors last year an honorable mention; not only did Eaton win the title in Portland, the city where he was born, but he won the heptathlon a day after Brianne won the pentathlon. Below we’ve also included some reactions from others in the world of track and field after learning of Eaton’s retirement.
— Dame Jess Ennis-Hill (@J_Ennis) January 4, 2017
The sport will miss Ashton Eaton. So will every journalist who spent even one minute with him. Gifted, tough, thoughtful. Class all the way. https://t.co/tx99WNCbA4
— Tim Layden (@ByTimLayden) January 4, 2017
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) January 4, 2017
— Oregon TC Elite (@OregonTCElite) January 4, 2017
— Andrew Wheating (@AndrewWheating) January 4, 2017
Discuss Eaton’s career on our world famous fan forum / messageboard here: MB Ashton Eaton retires