LONDON - A few weeks ago, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee were preparing to make Olympic history by meeting Olympic history. At the decathlon centennial celebration in Germany, they met U.S. legends Bruce Jenner and Dan O’Brien, plus every other living Olympic decathlon medalist. Watching a video of the exploits of the men that came before him, Hardee teared up thinking about the “elite fraternity” of athletes he and Eaton could join.
“I left there that night with a newfound resolve, a newfound kind of kick in the butt of what this really means,” Hardee said. “It isn’t just another meet. This isn’t the Olympic Trials. This isn’t the world championships. This is the Olympic Games, and we’re representing the U.S., and that is so much bigger than you realize.”
Pulling on the motivation from those who came before them, Eaton and Hardee took gold and silver the decathlon Thursday night, scoring 8,869 and 8,671.
“Now we did it. We joined that fraternity, and it’s really special,” Hardee said. “As the days, weeks, months, years pass, Ashton and I will look back on this and realize how special it really is and what this really meant.”
Eaton and Hardee got out to commanding leads and never looked back. Eaton placed first in the 100-meter on Wednesday, clocking an Olympic-record 10.35 seconds, and then also recorded a field-best 8.03 meters in the long jump. Heading into the final two events of the competition, Eaton had a commanding lead over the field. Hardee was 222 points behind, while German Rico Freimuth was in a distant third, 454 points behind Eaton.
Hardee took his place right behind Eaton in the first event, remaining there for the duration of the competition. Hardee threw his season best of 66.65 meters in the javelin to all but assure the U.S. gold and silver. The throw was monumental for Hardee, who wasn’t sure as late as June if he was fully recovered from a UCL tear he suffered last fall in the event.
Heading into the final event, the 1,500, the teammates knew what they had to do to make history.
“We wished each other luck, but more than anything, we nodded at one another,” Hardee said. “It was an understanding that we represented the United States for a chance to go 1-2, that’s what we set out to do. That was the exclamation point on the mission.”
When Eaton crossed the line in sixth and Hardee crossed in 11th, the victory was assured.
“The 1-2 finish was what we wanted,” Eaton said. “There’s been a really good history with U.S. decathletes starting back in 1912 with Jim Thorpe, and Trey and I are just trying our best to carry it out.”
Making history as well in the triple jump was another U.S. pair, college and training teammates Christian Taylor and Will Claye. For the first time since 1904, the United States took both first and second in the event. Taylor recorded a jump of 17.81 meters, while Claye hit 17.62.
The 2012 Olympic long jump bronze medalist Claye finished the semifinal round in first place while Taylor sat in fifth. Taylor just made it to the finals after faulting on his first two jumps and then posting a 17.15 on the third jump to advance.
In the final, it didn’t take long for Taylor to return to form. His first jump put him in the gold-medal position, just above teammate Claye. The jump was the best in the world in 2012.
“It’s like we have a brotherhood and jumping against your brother you go harder,” Claye said. “It’s just me and Christian out there sometimes. We definitely push each other and help each other out there, and it’s an awesome feeling to know that we’ve crossed paths this way.”