2011 T&F World Championships

Ashton Eaton wins decathlon silver medal in World Championships; Mo Farah gets silver in 10,000, with Galen Rupp seventh; Nick Symmonds reaches 800-meter final


For The Register-Guard

DAEGU, South Korea — Ashton Eaton rallied in the final event of the decathlon here Sunday, setting a personal best in the 1,500 meters and winning the silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Athletics with 8,505 points, the second-highest score of his career.

For Eaton, 23, the second day of the two-day contest was one of frustration, but ultimately redemption. The former University of Oregon star, the first-day leader, had slipped into second place behind USA teammate Trey Hardee after the seventh discipline, the discus, and he held second place through the next event, the pole vault.

But a poor javelin throw of 181 feet in the penultimate discipline dropped him to third place behind Cuba’s Leonel Suárez by 32 points. Eaton knew he had to beat Suárez in the 1,500 meters by about five seconds to get back into the silver medal position. His Oregon Track Club Elite coach Harry Marra had worked the numbers and was confident Eaton could do it.

“I knew the time I had to run because I knew what he had done,” Eaton said of Suárez. “I looked up at the (stadium) monitor and I could see him and he was getting kind of close. So, I just started booking as fast as I can.”

Eaton was exhausted — he only slept five hours the night before —- but was determined to squeeze out those precious seconds.

“For the last 50 meters I wanted to give up so bad,” he admitted. “I was like, let’s just be done. You got five hours of sleep, it’s a long two days, but you’ve got to do it for the silver medal.”

Eaton hit the finish line in 4 minutes,18.94 seconds and his manager, Paul Doyle, began to time the gap back to Suárez with his own stopwatch.

“With about 250 to go Ashton started going and I knew it was going to be close,” Doyle told The Register-Guard. “I had the stopwatch out and I knew it was about a five-second cushion Ashton had. When he crossed the line I started the stopwatch, stopped it when Suárez crossed the line, and it was 5.10. I just went nuts.”

Suárez ran 4:24.16, and according to the decathlon scoring tables, Eaton had beaten the Cuban by 36 points in the 1,500, and just a scant four points in the overall tally.

“This is decathlon,” Eaton said, telling reporters that he would celebrate by sleeping in today. “I fought back and I’ll all right with that.”

Hardee, meanwhile, finished with 8,607 points to win his second consecutive World Championships title in the decathlon, making him only the third man to win at least two world titles in the 10-event competition. American Dan O’Brien on three world titles (1991, ‘93 and ‘95), and Tomas Dvorak of the Czech Republic took the next three, in ‘97, ‘99 and ‘01.

Eaton became the first American to win silver in the decathlon at a World Championships, and collectively it marked the first time that a country swept the top two places in the decathlon.

Just moments before Eaton got his silver medal, another athlete with Oregon ties picked up a silver medal, too. Great Britain’s Mo Farah, who lives and trains in Portland and is coached by Alberto Salazar through the Nike Oregon Project, came in second in a riveting 10,000 meter race to Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan, 27:13.81 to 27:14.07. Farah’s training partner Galen Rupp, the former UO standout, finished seventh in 27:26.84 and was the top American.

Ashton Eaton, men’s decathlon
“I’m a bit young in this sport still. This was my 16th decathlon and things weren’t going well at the very beginning and mentally I was really, really frustrated with myself.

“Even though I knew I was in the lead yesterday, I was still so frustrated with myself because of my marks. And I think that is one of the reasons I consider myself young in the sport, I wasn’t taking it for what it was. I was in the lead which is good.

“We got five hours of sleep last night and it was a long two days...I feel like I have let a bunch of people down, including myself, by not getting the gold. But you know what, I came away okay, and I’m already ready for next year.

“It is huge [going 1-2], it is very big. Going into next year as the 100th anniversary of the decathlon, and having Bryan Clay see what we’ve done here, maybe that will get us rekindled and fired up for next year and we’ll sweep it.”