Olympic Decathlon: Who Will Be the Next “World’s Greatest Athlete”?

Hardee eaton rotator

The United States produces the best athletes on earth. That’s not an understatement. According to NBC’s Olympic All-Time Medal Standings chart, we’ve won 2,435 medals—that’s over twice the medals of runner-up, Russia. We have universities, like USC, that have raked in more medals than most countries. We have states that generate more Olympians than entire sections of Europe and Asia and South America. And if the champion of Olympic decathlon—dubbed “World’s Greatest Athlete” for best performance in a series of ten track and field events—isn’t American, we feel like something is missing. On the flip side, if Americans finish first and second in decathlon, we can double down on our “Most Athletic Country” claim.

Enter: Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton.

Trey Hardee is the two-time defending World Champion in the decathlon and he competed in the event in Beijing (where he didn’t medal). He also set the NCAA record in the event while at the University of Texas. Originally, Hardee, 6’5″, 209 pounds, dreamed of an NBA career, but fate took another course when he was cut from his high school basketball team. According to his bio, when Hardee found himself without a sport, he searched for a new one with a heavy amount of training that would allow him to skip some classes to workout. With no sport requiring more practice than the decathlon, Hardee picked it up—probably the first (and maybe only) Olympian who started his career on his desire to play hookie. If Hardee wins a gold medal in London though, future class cutters will have ammo against disapproving teachers… “C’mon, Mr. Smith, Trey Hardee cut class and became an Olympic champion!”

Ashton Eaton turned the track world upside down at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials by beating Hardee and setting a world record that topped the almost unapproachable 9,000 point thresh hold. We won’t bore you with an explanation of how decathlon scoring works, but suffice to say it is a huge deal, somewhere between hitting 60 home runs in a baseball season or rushing for 2,000 yards in an NFL season. The feat immediately made Eaton a gold medal favorite in the event in London, which will be his first Olympic Games.

No matter how many medals we win on the track, in the pool or on the court, a gold and silver finish by Eaton and Hardee will help massage our patriotic sports egos for another four years.

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