Decathlon world record-holder Ashton Eaton (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Personal bests – Ashton Eaton

In the first of a new series of features, world and Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton looks at all the best aspects of his life as an elite athlete.

My best achievement:

Can I pick two? It is a toss-up between my world record of 9039 in Oregon and winning the Olympic title in London. If I had to pick one, it would be my Olympic gold as that represents the pinnacle of the sport.

My best piece of coaching advice:

I wouldn’t necessarily say piece of advice, but more it is my coach Harry Marra’s open-minded approach to training. A prime example would be my shot put technique. I tried to do what everybody else did but it wasn’t going anywhere and my coach, Harry, was open to try something different, which turned out well.

My greatest rival:

That is an easy one for me. The person I battle with the most is myself. I am always competing against myself way more than anybody else.

My best friend in athletics:

I have a number. I can honestly say I like all my competitors; Trey Hardee, Thomas van der Plaetsen, Eelco Sintnicolaas. Leonel Suarez from Cuba (two-time Olympic bronze medallist) is a top guy. I don’t speak much Spanish and he speaks very little English but we have always got along. He really pushed me at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. We’ve shared the medal stand; he’s a great competitor and a fun guy – always smiling. My great friend besides my wife, Brianne, outside of my direct competitors, is my coach, Harry, I like spending time with him. We’ve shared lots of ups and downs and I think he has been a great friend.

My best venue:

I have two – Berlin and London. I competed at the 2009 World Championships and there is something special about the stadium and the surrounding area that had a great atmosphere. With these enormous statues outside the stadium and walking into the main arena on the mid-level and the track down below gave it a colosseum-type feeling. If Berlin had a very old-world feeling about it, the Olympic Stadium in London had a very new-world feeling about it. The stadium was packed and showed the power of just what track and field can be at its best.

My greatest disappointment:

It was at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.  I know I learned the most about myself there but I was still pretty disappointed. Two months earlier I’d posted an awesome score (8729) to win the US nationals. It was my first professional year out of college and I thought all I needed to do is the same thing at the World Championships, but it didn’t happen. My long jump and pole vault were the worst and it was only in the 1500m where I competed like my normal self.  (Ashton won silver in Daegu).

The best athlete I’ve ever seen:

David Rudisha might be the greatest athlete in track and field right now. Maybe it is because I run the 100m, 400m and 1500m it helps me to know what it takes to run 800m. I know it takes a certain kind of mental toughness. I also think Valerie Adams is amazing. Her winning streak is unbelievable. Even on her bad days, she beats people on their good days. Yet the greatest athlete also begs the question; is the greatest athlete the one that has all the talent or the one that has the least amount of talent, but is still competing at the top level.

My greatest indulgence:

Pretty much any of Brianne’s (his wife’s) baking. Her pumpkin butterscotch cookies are amazing. She took them to a Christmas party and I stood next to them all night recommending them. I probably ate seven myself!

My best piece of track and field kit:

My triple jump shoes. They have a double strap on them and are a bit heavier than a long jump or a pole vault shoe but as soon as I first put on those shoes I thought I’m going to jump far in these shoes. I’ve long jumped 27ft (8.23m) in them and jumped all my pole vault PBs in them. If I could bring one shoe to a decathlon, these would be the ones.

Steve Landells for the IAAF