When Jim Thorpe won the first modern decathlon - competing in the same 10 events that today's decathletes perform - Sweden's King Gustav V famously called the American "the greatest athlete in the world." Today's Olympic decathlon champions also receive that nickname, and who can dispute it? Decathlon winners must sprint, hurdle, run, throw and jump - both vertically and horizontally - better than any man in the world.
About Olympic Decathlon:
The IAAF's scoring tables often change but the principle remains the same - decathletes earn points based on their time, distance or measurement, rather than their place in the field. For example, if a decathlete completes the 1500 in 4:30 he receives 745 points, whether he finishes first or last.
Olympic Decathlon History:
Ancient Greek Olympians competed in a five-sport pentathlon: javelin, discus, wrestling, long jump and a foot race. The first modern Olympic decathlon in 1904, then called the "All-Around Championship," included events such as the 800-yard walk, hammer throw and 56-pound throw. The next decathlon, in 1912, included the same 10 events in which decathletes compete today.
Action Image Gallery:
All 10 decathlon events are represented in the following photo gallery.
Take a look at the top 2012 Olympic decathlon hopefuls, from the U.S. and around the world, then catch up with some familiar names from the past with these selections.