Track & Field
Hometown: Bend, OR
Flopping First, Winning Later: A running back and sprinter in high school, Eaton was eyeing Division II and III schools for football when his coach sold him to Division I college track coaches as a dominant decathlete. The sales pitch paid off, though his collegiate career at the elite track and field squad at the University of Oregon career had an inauspicious start: His first pole vault in competition was so hilariously awful—he did a front flip over the bar— that it still lives in infamy on YouTube. But he was unfazed: Eaton currently holds the decathlon world record and won gold at the 2012 Olympics, and 2013 and 2015 World Championships.
For Which He Credits His Sensei: Eaton developed his work ethic as a child in martial arts, when, starting at age 7, he ran “wind sprints over gravel in bare feet and did crazy amounts of pushups and situps. The idea behind martial arts is mind over matter.”
To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Rio Olympics begin August 5.