Skip to main content

Ashton Eaton discusses Usain Bolt in a decathlon vs. world record holders

How would Usain Bolt fare in a decathlon with other world record holders? Olympic champion and decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton shares his take.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Decathlon world record holder and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton discussed a hypothetical decathlon in which all men's track and field world record holders would go head-to-head in all 10 events on the World’s Greatest Athlete podcast.

In the imaginary situation, athletes are in their prime, completely healthy and under perfect training.

The 10 participants would be: 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt (9.58 seconds); 400-meter world record holder Michael Johnson (43.18 seconds); 1,500-meter world record holder​ Hicham El-Guerrouj (3:26.00); 110-meter hurdle world record holder Aries Merritt (12.80 seconds); high jump world record holder Javier Sotomayor (2.45-meters – 8 1/2 feet); pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie (6.16-meters – 20'2.5"); long jump world record holder Mike Powell (8.95-meters – 29'4.5"); shot put world record holder Randy Barnes (23.12-meters – 75'10.25"), discus world record holder Jürgen Schult (74.08-meters –  243") and javelin world record holder Jan Železný (98.48 – 323"1').

Eaton improved upon his own decathlon world record by six points at this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, when he ran a world record 45.00 for the 400-meter dash within the decathlon. He finished with a final score of 9,045 after a strong run in the 1,500-meter run to close out the 10 events of competition.

Ashton Eaton, Genzebe Dibaba win IAAF Athlete of the Year honors​

The following transcription has been edited for clarity:

WGA: I think Renaud Lavillenie would win...I want to know who is two, three...I also want to know who is the worst? Is it Hicham El-Guerrouj because he can’t throw anything. Is it Randy Barnes in the shot put because he’s not running anything. Is there going to be a few no-heights and 85-second 100-meters? Without getting every single person, let’s just start with Bolt. What do you think the man could long jump and hurdle?

Ashton Eaton: I think Bolt could probably jump 9.50-meters...I think Bolt is faster than Carl [Lewis] obviously and in the long jump, you can’t go top speed and jump well so you have to dial it down a percentage. So whatever Bolt’s percentage toned down to make an optimal long jump is going to be faster than anybody’s. So now if we assume he has perfect training and jumping ability and is coached by the best, yeah I think he can go 9.50.

WGA: What do you think he can hurdle?

Ashton Eaton: The hurdles – you get some diminishing returns after some point. Wait is this hurdling in the decathlon after the first day and all that?

WGA: For sure.

Eaton: Completely different. He could go...If he two steps...

WGA: To put it simply for people not too familiar with the hurdles, most people use seven or eight steps. He would have to alternate and two step. It’s 30 feet in between hurdles.

Eaton: Because three is almost too much for him. He’d have to move his feet so fast. Aries is a tall guy too but he is so quick in between. I’m going to say 13 low.

WGA: Mike Powell. What is he pole vaulting?

Eaton: Assuming perfect training, I bet you he goes close to six meters...He’s a tall guy. He has supreme jumping ability. Being tall, being fast and being able to jump and then assuming you have good technique. Those are the keys to being good in the pole vault.

WGA: Who gets last? Randy Barnes in the shot put, who went 23.12, which is 75'10" and in the discus we have Jürgen Schult with 75-meters and Jan Železný. Where would you rank those three guys?

Eaton: [Of those three] I think it's Železný who would definitely be the winner. I’ve met him. He’s just calm, cool and collected. He’s like a sniper. He’s BA... He’s got a good body physique for a multi-event athlete. He’s not super big. I haven’t seen much of the other two guys. have to be some kind of athlete to spin. The shot put guy has to get last, right?

WGA: Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Aries Merritt. 1-2-3. Rank them at the end of a decathlon.

Eaton: I think Aires first. Bolt second...Man...I say Aires first. Johnson and then Bolt.

WGA: I see Michael Johnson popping some shot put. He has a big chest.

Eaton: You do! He has those legs with low [center of gravity]....The only reason is I think a fast person will always get a lot of points [is because] 70% of the events are running and jumping.

WGA: 80% of the decathlon is done in 15 seconds or less. For you, 90% of it is done in 45 seconds or less. For other 50 seconds or less.

Listen to the full podcast with Eaton here.

- Christopher Chavez