Even if Ashton Eaton owns the world record and an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon — accomplishments that helped him join four-time recipient Allyson Felix as a 2012 Jesse Owens Award winner Monday — he is convinced he’s not nearly as good as he could be.
“I can improve in all of my events,” Eaton said, “and I don’t know by how much.”
The 24-year-old Eaton, of Eugene, Ore., was asked where he can get better the most. He competes, after all, in 10 different disciplines.
He began his reply by mentioning the shot put. Then he added: “The discus is something I haven’t figured out yet. The javelin is something I haven’t figured out yet. The pole vault — there still is a steep learning curve. Maybe the hurdles, as well.”
Well, then. Look out, decathletes. As it is, Eaton broke the world record in June at the U.S. Olympic trials, finishing with 9,039 points to eclipse Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old mark by 13 points.
The American followed that up at the London Games by taking the title, combining with runner-up Trey Hardee to give the United States its first 1-2 finish in the Olympic decathlon since 1956. Eaton opened up by breaking Bill Toomey’s 44-year-old Olympic record in the decathlon 100-meter dash; he also scored the most points in the long jump and 400 meters.
Running has long been Eaton’s forte, and he mentioned a new goal Monday: being part of a championship team in the 4×400-meter relay.
Felix, of Santa Clarita, Calif., also is open to new challenges and changing events.
The first four-time Owens award winner as the top track and field athlete in the U.S., she won the 200 meters at the London Games for her first individual Olympic gold, and also had victories in the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
She’s gone back and forth about whether to seek success in the individual 400, and she said Monday she expects to be willing to enter the longer event when the 2016 Rio Olympics roll around.
“I’m definitely open to it more,” the 26-year-old Felix said. “As I get older, the 400 may suit me more.”
USA Track and Field will present Eaton and Felix their awards Dec. 1 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Before that, Felix is heading to Africa for a 10-day trip with an organization that uses sports to promote development. It’s the sort of opportunity away from the track that her victories on it allow.
“I’ve been able to do a lot of things that I really wanted to do,” Felix said.