After breaking the world record during the U.S. Trials this year, Ashton Eaton
is the strong favorite in the 2012 Olympic decathlon. Eaton scored four personal bests at the Trials – in the 100 meters, the long jump, the pole vault and the 1500 meters – on his way to 9,039 points. The key question he faces in London is whether he can come close to repeating that performance away from home, because the top performances of his young career have come on his favorite track in Eugene, Oregon. Eaton was favored in last year’s World Championships, but finished second to fellow American Trey Hardee in Daegu. Eaton has improved in the past year, however, while Hardee is just 10 months removed from elbow surgery. Be sure to tune in when decathlon competiton begins on Aug. 8, because Eaton’s best events are the first two of the competition, the 100 meters and the long jump. Eaton scored 2,164 points in those two events at the Olympic Trials. If he can come close to that score in London he’ll be well on his way to victory.
Hardee is a terrific story himself, as he’s come back sooner than expected from Tommy John surgery. He was nowhere close to his personal bests in the second day throwing events – the discus and the javelin – at the U.S. Trials this year. With another month to heal his elbow, Hardee should improve those numbers in London and remain in contention for a gold medal. Other medal contenders include Pascal Behrenbruch of Germany, who scored a personal best 8,558 points while winning the European championship this year; Belgium’s Hans van Alphen, who tallied a career-best 8,519 to win at Gotzis in May; Eelco Sintnicolaas of the Netherlands, who was second at Gotzis with a personal best 8,506 points; France’s 20-year-old Kevin Mayer, the 2010 World Junior champion; Leonel Suarez, last year’s World Championship bronze medalist; and veteran Oleksiy Kasyanov of Ukraine.
Jessica Ennis of Great Britain has a glittering trophy case already at age 26, with gold medals from the 2009 outdoor and 2010 indoor World Championships, plus silvers at the 2011 outdoor and 2012 indoor Championships. Now she hopes to add an Olympic heptathlon gold to that collection of multi-events medals. Ennis scored a world-leading and personal best 6,906 points to win at Gotzis in May, and seems primed to give the home fans in London something to cheer about. She’ll have to contend with defending Olympic champion Natallia Dobrynska from Ukraine, who began the year by setting a world pentathlon record at the World Indoor Championships. Her season-best heptathlon score is only 6,311 this year, but her personal best is 6,778.
Other key heptathlon contenders include 2011 World champion Tatyana Chernova, who earned a bronze in Beijing, plus a second Russian, 21-year-old Kristina Savitskaya, who scored a personal best 6,681 points at Cheboksary in June. American Hyleas Fountain scored a silver medal in Beijing and tallied her personal best of 6,735 in 2010. Her top 2012 score is just 6,419, but the U.S. champion remains a threat. Canada’s Jessica Zelinka was fifth at Beijing and tallied a personal best 6,599 in June. Antoinete Nana Djimou Ida of France scored a personal best of 6,544 in June, Lituanian veteran Austra Skujyte was the 2012 World Indoor bronze medalist, while Germany’s Jennifer Oeser owns World Championship silver and bronze medals.
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