U.S. decathlete Ashton Eaton sets a new world record as he crosses the finish line in the men’s decathlon 1500m at the U.S. Olympic athletics trials in Eugene, Oregon June 23, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)
By Gene Cherry
EUGENE, Oregon, June 23 (Reuters) – Ashton Eaton set a glittering decathlon world record at the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday, stealing the limelight from a star-studded cast of athletes in cold and wet conditions in Eugene, Oregon.
The 24-year-old’s total of 9,039 points bettered the 2001 mark held by Czech great Roman Sebrle by 13 points and capped an extraordinary meeting for the American, who had already set decathlon records for the 100 meters and long jump legs on Friday.
Eaton will head to London in a powerful decathlon duo with runner-up and world champion Trey Hardee, but Olympic champion Bryan Clay’s hopes of defending his title were shattered.
Clay found trouble in the 110 meters hurdles and discus legs of the 10-event competition to finish 12th.
Dawn Harper ensured she will defend her gold medal at London, however, after winning the 100 hurdles with a time of 12.73 seconds, edging runner-up Kellie Wells and third-placed Lolo Jones.
As one of the top three finishers to qualify with the Olympic standard, Jones earned a shot at redemption at London, having crashed in the Beijing Games final four years ago when leading.
World champion Carmelita Jeter stormed to victory in the women’s 100 in 10.92 seconds to top Tianna Madison, who ran 10.97.
Third place was being reviewed after Jeneba Tarmoh and three-times world 200 champion Allyson Felix tied with a time of 11.068.
Former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin earlier took a confident step forward on his comeback trail, breezing through the first round of the men’s 100 in an eye-catching 9.90 seconds.
Gatlin, who won gold at the 2004 Athens Games but missed four years of competition between 2006 and 2010 due to a doping suspension, had no problem with the frigid weather as he topped the time-sheets.
“It really defines warriors, how well you can get up for it,” he said with a smile.
Tyson Gay and Walter Dix, expected to be his main rivals in Sunday’s semi-finals and finals, also advanced without fuss.
Gay, in only his second race in a year because of hip surgery, clocked exactly 10 seconds to win his preliminary with the day’s second fastest time.
“I was a little nervous with the start … but all and all it felt pretty good,” said the world’s second fastest man behind Jamaican Usain Bolt.
Olympic bronze medalist Dix also won his heat with a time of 10.03.
Two-times Olympic shot put silver medalist Adam Nelson, hampered by a groin injury, missed his chance to make the U.S. team by finishing 15th.
Former world champions Reese Hoffa and Christian Cantwell, and reigning global indoor winner Ryan Whiting led qualifying with Hoffa making the top throw of 21.22 meters.
The trials continue through July 1.