By Gene Cherry
LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) – An aching Ashton Eaton felt like he had fallen out of a tree the day after setting the decathlon world record at the U.S. trials last month.
His body was that beat up from the physically demanding 10-event two-day competition.
Now comes a new challenge, the London Olympics where the 24-year-old Oregon native is hot favorite for gold in his first trip to the Games.
His record-breaking 9,039 points in wet and cold conditions at the U.S. trials earned him the honor.
But nothing will be taken for granted, Eaton told reporters after a U.S. news conference on Monday.
“With multi-events there are a lot of things that can go wrong,” he said. “I don’t care if I had scored 11,000 points I would never feel I had it in the bag.”
His quest for gold supersedes any thoughts of another record or even surpassing 9,000 points again, a mark only former Czech world record holder Roman Sebrle had previously achieved.
“Getting a PB (personal best), I am definitely not going to try for that,” Eaton said. “I think it is unrealistic to think I am going to get another world record, especially at the Olympic Games.”
Three times a world indoor heptathlon record-breaker, Eaton has always appeared on course to smash the decathlon mark although many, including himself, thought it would be a few years off.
Competing before a wildly cheering home crowd and a number of former Olympic champions, Eaton accomplished the longtime goal last month in Eugene, Oregon.
“At first I was happy,” Eaton said on Monday. “Then I kind of got sad because I think Roman is really a great guy, and he had a really good record and he has done a lot for our event and our sport.
“So it almost felt I took something from him, but at the same time, I worked really hard, so it was kind of bittersweet for me.”
A solid score is his goal for London, he said, “but you are never going to be perfect in the decathlon”.
“The eternal struggle of the multi-events is what attracts most athletes to it.
“You are always striving for 10 perfect events, but it never happens.”
The throwing events are his biggest weakness, but improvement is coming, he said.
“He is so good at so many things,” British two-time Olympic champion Daley Thompson told Reuters.
“He has got a lot that he can still improve on, and I am looking forward to seeing his results over the next five or 10 years.”
Thompson does not rate Eaton as the world greatest decathlete yet.
“He is the highest scoring one,” the former world record holder said.
“Milt Campbell, Rafter Johnson, Bob Mathias. Those guys are the guys I looked up to. To me those guys are gods.”