Ashton Eaton has been dubbed “the world’s greatest athlete,” and as a two-time world record holder, it’s hard to argue against Eaton’s prowess. Eaton is a decathlete, which means he competes in 10 different track and field events during a two-day competition in a test of strength and endurance. Eaton is the defending Olympic champion and reigning world record holder, so when the 2016 Summer Olympic Games begin, fans can expect the 28-year-old to be in the running for the Olympic gold medal.
Below, you’ll find five fast facts to help you get to know this dominant decathlete a little bit better.
1. Eaton is only the second decathlete in history to have scored more than 9,000 points.
Ashton joined an elite club in 2012 when he broke the 11-year-old decathlon world record at the U.S. Olympic trials. There, Eaton scored a total of 9,039 points, breaking the record of 9,026 set by Czech Republic decathlete Roman Sebrle in 2001. Before Eaton, Sebrle was the only man to have scored more than 9,000 points in the decathlon.
After setting the world at the 2012 trials, Eaton went on to win the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. In the years that followed, Eaton stayed at the top of his game and, in 2015, broke his own decathlon world record with a score of 9,045 at the 2015 IAAF World Championship meet in Beijing.
The pursuits, tribulations, stories, global borderless collective efforts…there is nothing, nothing like being in the Olympic Games.
— Ashton Eaton (@AshtonJEaton) July 29, 2016
2. Prior to his senior year of high school, Eaton had never heard of the decathlon.
Eaton was a two-time Oregon state champion in high school, winning both the 400-meters and the long jump during his high school career. Even though Eaton had previous success both on the track and in the field, he had very little experience with the decathlon when he began searching for colleges.
That quickly changed when Eaton chose to attend the University of Oregon, where he began training under former U.S. decathlete Dan Steele and Harry Marra. Soon, Eaton’s talent was recognized for exactly what it was: among the best in the world.
— FloTrack (@FloTrack) July 28, 2016
3. Eaton and his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, are gunning for double golds in Rio.
Ashton married his college sweetheart, Oregon teammate Brianne Theisen-Eaton, in 2013. Like Ashton, Brianne also is a multi-event competitor — she’s an elite-level heptathlete, which is the women’s equivalent of the decathlon.
Brianne is a Canadian athlete who had the opportunity to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London alongside her then-fiancée. While Ashton won gold, Brianne finished 11th. This time, however, the Eatons hope things will be different. When the track and field events begin in Rio, Brianne will again be on the track, this time gunning for am Olympic gold medal to match that of her husband.
Ashton is looking forward to the possibility of a double-gold situation for himself and his wife, he told USA Today.
“It’s not impossible, and there’s actually a pretty good chance. I don’t think we could have put ourselves in any better position to achieve that goal of winning two golds, so that would just be awesome.”
4. Ashton has tried a lot of different sports in an effort to become a ninja turtle.
Eaton started out on his first athletic endeavor as a 4-year-old, determined to turn himself into a ninja turtle. In an effort to do so, Ashton took up taekwondo and earned his black belt before moving onto the next sport. Throughout his life, Eaton has also participated in football, basketball, soccer, and wrestling.
On his website, Eaton is called “obsessed” with his goals. The site notes that “One day Ashton saw the Olympics on television. He immediately wanted to be an Olympian. He was amazed at how fast the athletes were and how far they jumped.”
“He gets obsessed with something, thinks he can do it, and then pursues it indefinitely or until he gets to ‘the end.'”
5. Eaton says he owes his success to his coach.
Competing in a decathlon is trying, both mentally and physically, but Eaton has said that he’s able to stay motivated because he owes it to his coach, Harry Marra.
“He has dedicated his entire life to this event. A lot of people dedicate their lives to stuff like the military or humanitarian aid. But Harry has dedicated his entire life to the decathlon, and so with that comes just all this experience that he has,” Eaton told Runner’s World. “I think as an athlete, it’s always nice to be able to — especially with a coach who is so dedicated — be able to give them a good performance, to have them know that they coached something good.”
Will you tune in to watch Ashton Eaton participate in the decathlon at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games?
[Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images Sport]