LONDON — Good news for us athletic mortals: Ashton Eaton didn’t wake up Friday morning quite feeling like the world’s greatest athlete, the unofficial and extremely cool designation that belongs to the reigning Olympic decathlon gold medalist.
“The first thing that I thought of when I woke up this morning wasn’t that I’m a gold medalist,’’ said Eaton, who followed Beijing gold medalist Brian Clay as an American winner in the decathlon when he clinched it without much suspense Thursday night.
“First thing I thought of was, ‘I need to drink a lot of water.’ Because I was just so dehydrated and so sore. I was so tired I didn’t get those cramps that wake you up in the middle of the night because I slept through everything. But that’s what Bri [fiancee and Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen] said to me and I was like, ‘No, I’m too sore. And too tired.’ ’’
Eaton may have exhausted himself in the grueling two-day event, which he said Bruce Jenner once told him is “the standardized test for discovering the world’s best athlete.” But he left many impressed while doing so, including Jamaican star Usain Bolt, who often refers to himself as the world’s greatest athlete but conceded Thursday night that the title belongs to Eaton, since he does 10 diverse events.
“I heard about that, and it was cool,’’ said Eaton, who holds the world record for the most points in a single meet (9,039). “But like I’ve said, we each have our own accolades and accomplishments and things we do well. He’s the fastest man who has ever walked the face of the earth. That’s what the 100-meter guy gets. The winner of the decathlon gets world’s greatest athlete.”
But despite such an impressive title, there is one more miniscule boost in athletic confidence for us mortals. Eaton acknowledged — after some thinking — that he didn’t always excel at every sport and discipline he tried.
“I was one of those kids who everything I tried sports-related I liked,’’ said Eaton. “ [But] you know what I wasn’t good at? Swimming. No swimming for me. Terrible. If they add that as an 11th event, I’d have to get [Michael] Phelps to do it for me.”