If there was a danger that success was becoming all too easy for Ashton Eaton, then all one needed to do was see the look on his face during the final event of the heptathlon on Saturday night, as he grimaced, grinded and battled his way to a time of 2:35.22, which gave him overall victory by almost 300 points.
“It’s kind of hard to psych yourself up in that situation,” said Eaton. “You just have to tell yourself to still run hard. I really wanted to set another world record and give everyone here a little treat, but hopefully they still got something out of this.”
His overall tally was 6470 points, a mark which only fellow American Dan O’Brien – and Eaton himself, who holds the world record at 6645 – have bettered.
With the gold medal secured, and Eaton needing an absurdly fast time of 2:20.48 to break his world record, the only true conundrum awaiting resolution in the final event was to see who took the minor medals.
It came down to a battle between three men: USA's Curtis Beach, Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov and Germany’s Mathias Brugger. The standings made for a typically complex situation, with Beach – by far the best 1000m runner among them – needing to best Kasyanov by 16.02 seconds and Bruger by 5.62 seconds to take the silver medal.
He set off with exactly that intention, and was roared around the track in the Oregon Convention Center as he passed 200m in 29.93 and 400m in 59.77.
Leading the chase was Brugger, who was keen to keep Beach within shouting distance to maintain his medal position. Running just behind Brugger throughout was Eaton, who instead of coasting around on five laps of honour – as he would have been well entitled to – instead was intent to leave it all on the track.
Beach passed 800m in 1:58.54, and battled overwhelming fatigue over the final lap to come home in 2:29.04, the fastest time ever run over 1000m during a heptathlon at the World Indoor Championships. It gave him a tally of 6118.
Next in was Brugger, who ran a personal best of 2:34.10 to ensure he would stay ahead of Beach in the overall standings with a total of 6126. All the while, Kasyanov was powering his way towards the line, which he crossed in a season’s best of 2:39.64 to consolidate his silver medal position. His grand total: a season’s best of 6182.
“Coming into the last event, I calculated how many metres of a difference I was ahead of third place, and I decided to run as close as possible to my strongest pace and have a conservative start,” said Kasyanov. “It worked out really well.”
Bronze medallist Brugger was overjoyed with his first medal at a senior championship. “It was beautiful,” he said. “I can’t believe it. It’s a dream.”
Adam Sebastian Helcelet of the Czech Republic ran 2:45.06 to take his total over 6000 points, his tally of 6003 enough for fifth place overall. Grenada’s Kurt Felix ran 2:44.23 to set a national indoor record of 5986 in sixth place.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF