“LONDON — Ashton Eaton is more concerned with getting an Olympic medal in the decathlon than breaking his world record. But how about both?
The 24-year-old American broke Bill Toomey’s 44-year-old record in the 100-meter dash and built a 105-point lead over teammate and world champion Trey Hardee after the opening three events Wednesday. Eaton was just 57 points shy of the pace when he broke Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old world record with 9,039 points at the U.S. trials in June.
Eaton started by running the 100 in 10.35 seconds, just 0.14 off his time at the trials but beating Toomey’s 10.41 at Mexico City in 1968.
He followed that up with the top performance in the long jump and was 11th in the shot put. There were two more events — high jump and 400 meters — to round out the first day.
“I feel good. My body feels good,” Eaton said. “Nothing special, but they were all solid, which is what it takes to be good in the decathlon.”
It helps, too, that the last two gold medalists are out.
Defending champion Bryan Clay failed to make the U.S. team, and Sebrle, who won in Athens eight years ago, dropped out after the 100 because of a right heel injury. It was hardly the ending the 37-year-old Sebrle envisioned for his last Olympics.
“My imagination of saying goodbye to the Olympics was another way,” Sebrle said.
Still, he pronounced himself satisfied with a storied career in which he held the world record for more than a decade.
And satisfied that the sport is left in capable hands with competitors such as Eaton. Sebrle was impressed with Eaton’s performance at the trials, even more so because much of the competition was in a steady rain.
“He’s amazing,” Sebrle said. “It’s unbelievable. I think he will make more points than 9,039. But not today. Not at the Olympics.”
Eaton, of Eugene, Ore., conceded as much in the build-up to London. He wasn’t interested in breaking his mark anyway, just earning a spot on the podium.
However, the Olympic mark is definitely within reach. Sebrle owns that record, 8,893 points in Athens.
Eaton’s toughest competition may be from Hardee, who’s coming off reconstructive surgery last September to repair a ligament he blew out while throwing the javelin at the World Championships last summer. The injury happened on his final throw, a personal best that locked up his second straight world decathlon title.
The Americans are looking for their first 1-2 finish in the decathlon since Milton Gray Campbell and Rafer Johnson in 1956.
“It doesn’t mean anything now, just like it doesn’t mean anything after the first event,” said Hardee, who’s from Austin, Texas. “It’s all about leading into that 10th event and what it looks like when you cross the line. We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves.”