Even though Ashton Eaton has not finished a decathlon in over two years, don’t worry.
After winning the 2012 Worlds in Moscow, he took 2014 off concentrating on the 400m hurdles (world ranked 9th, 48.69). Scheduled to start at Götzis in late May, he wrenched his back and has rested and contested only individual events since—with eye-opening results. He’ll be the overwhelming favorite, but his final tally will depend upon conditions and the long waits normally associated with the Worlds.
The silver should go to Trey Hardee who already has a pair of world golds (2009, 2011) and Olympic silver (2012). At 31 he’s an anomaly in this business for if it had not been for Eaton, Hardee would be remembered as one of the all-time greats. He’s dominated for past two seasons and it’s been eleven years since his first 8000 score, nine since his first 8400 and six since his first 8700. Few in history have been at or near the top for so long. It would be silly given his USA nationals win in June (8725 WL) and last year’s number one world ranking to consider him for anything less than 2nd. The Yanks will smoke for this will be the Ash-Trey show!
There will be three others in the mix: Commonwealth champ Damian Warner, a pair of Germans (Kai Kazmirek and Michael Schrader) with Kevin Mayer the most talented Frenchman since William Mott now out with injury. You can throw a blanket over these four for the bronze medal but Warner may have an edge. The only missing name is last year’s Euro champ, Andrei Krauchanka, who has been notable by his absence from 2015 competition. But getting news out of Belarus is like getting blood from a stone. The recent open performances by the German pair have been disappointing though.
The events: Assuming adequate seeding by organizers, here is what could happen:
100 Meters: Eaton and Warner are fastest, with Eaton getting the nod, possibly under 10.30. Yikes!
Long Jump: Eaton and then the rest of the field: likely over 7.92m. No one close!
Shot Put: All of the major contenders are remarkably close, in the 14-15m range. Hardee has the potential. Of the non-contenders, the event is likely to go to either German Rico Freimuth or Frenchman Bastien Auziel, both in the mid-15m range.
High Jump: Without Krauchanka (2.22m last year at Euros) the event could be the showcase for the third American, Jeremey Taiwo, who will be in the 2.13-2.18 range. We can only hope than organizers will place the landing pits snug up against the track and the approach will come off the infield and not across the track. The latter will incur endless delays and be harmful to the best jumpers. Prediction: Eaton new smoother approach will net a 2.10m clearance.
400m: Watch out: Eaton’s recent 45.55 PR says it all. Eaton’s first day lead could be 200+ points.
110m Hurdles: The best event of the meet featuring new decathlon WR Warner (13.44 at Pan Ams in Toronto in July) and Eaton (a recent 13.38). Let’s hope organizers place them a lane apart in the same race.
Discus: Despite all of the marks, Hardee will own this event. His long pull will dump one down the right sector line in the 51m range. Expect Eaton to manage 46m.
Pole Vault: The size of the field will be crucial here: too many athletes will result in long waits and diminished performances. BUT, under right conditions, Eaton may hold court. His recent 5.40m is the best of the field.
Javelin: The only question will be if Hardee needs a big throw to garner 2nd overall. His post-London performances have been modest.
1500m: What’s nice is that Eaton has the potential to run 4:15, and will if needed, but it’s unlikely he’ll need to unless there is a record possibility.
1. Eaton USA
3. Warner CAN
(no European medals)
Beijing will have an additional American flavor as current NCAA champ Maicel Uibo competes for Estonia and Arizona’s Paul Tonnesson, born and raised in the US, will wear a Spanish singlet (mother is Catalan).