The Decathlon

Canadians should be justifiably proud of Damian Warner, who struck gold at the Tokyo Olympics, winning the decathlon with a total of 9,018 points. Should he choose, he can lay claim as “the world’s greatest athlete,” about which I will have a few words a little later in this “blogue” posting. The decathlon is truly a measure of complete athleticism, with events that require speed, agility, strength and endurance — all held over just 48 hours. The decathlon pits athlete against athlete, albeit with a different scoring system. Points are awarded for levels of attainment, rather than for placement. For example, 1000 points would be awarded for a time of 10.395 seconds in the 100 metre sprint, while 10.827 seconds would get you 900 points, and the points scale slides down from there. Thus there are potentially 10,000 points that may be awarded for completing all ten events of the decathlon, which include the 100 metre sprint, 400 metres, 110 metre hurdles, 1500 metre run, long jump, high jump, shot put, pole vault, javelin throw, and discus throw.

No one will achieve the 10,000 point plateau, but 9,000 is attainable, although there are but 4 members of the “9,000” club, with Damian Warner the newest member and the only man to surpass 9,000 points during Olympic competition. The world record holder, with 9,128 points is Kevin Mayer of France, who finished second to Warner in Tokyo. Only Ashton Eaton of the US and Roman Šebrle of the Czech Republic have scored more than 9,000 points in official competitions. And only Ashton Eaton (in London and Rio), Daley Thompson, a Brit (won gold in 1980 and 1984) and  American Bob Mathias, who triumphed in 1948 (London) and 1952 (Helsinki) are the only two time Olympic decathlon champions. Mathias was just 17 in London, and went on to Stanford University, where he played football, later joined the Marine Corps where he served as an officer, made his way into acting, and finally entered politics as a California congressman. Look up “over-achievement” in the dictionary and you will likely find “Mathias.”

Bruce Jenner

Gold medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Bruce set a points record that stood until 2000. Bruce has transformed to Caitlyn Jenner, and just this year she stated her intention to run for Governor of the state of California. Caitlyn appears on the left, Bruce in 1976 on the right.

 

Jim Thorpe

James Francis Thorpe was the first Native American to win gold for the United States at the Olympics. He won two gold medals in fact, for the pentathlon (the classic pentathlon at the time included the long jump, discus, javelin, 200 metre and 1500 metre races), and the decathlon, both in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Stockholm. In presenting Thorpe with his medals, King Gustav of Sweden stated, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” Jim Thorpe may well have been the greatest athlete ever, as he went on to play Major League Baseball AND in the National Football League; with some professional basketball also thrown in.

But Thorpe was subsequently stripped of his medals, as it was determined that he had played semi-professional baseball prior to competing in the Olympics. His medals were re-instated posthumously.

Also interesting to relate in these times, is that Jim Thorpe was sent as a young boy to the Haskell Institute, an “Indian Boarding School” in Kansas, far removed from his roots in Oklahoma. In Canada we know these boarding schools as the infamous “Indian Residential Schools.”