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Five questions with Ashton Eaton

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 10, 2012 05:33 PM

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LONDON -- Had a chance to catch up with decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton Friday afternoon at the P&G House, the home-away-from-home here for United States athletes and their families. For a guy who was just newly-minted as the World's Greatest Athlete, he's about as affable and laid-back as it gets. Must be his Oregon roots. Here are his answers to our five questions:

I know it's just Day 1 for you as a gold medalist, but often things change immediately after someone gets to the top of a podium here. Have you been recognized or approached more?

Eaton: "I think after Eugene [the site of the US track and field Olympic trials], it was more like that, so I was kind of used to it. But you know, I can be walking around over here and someone with a Union Jack painted on his face will come up and say, 'Hey, can we get a picture with you?,' and I'm always still a little surprised. But I haven't got my medal yet so I can't walk around with it or anything like that. I have a bunch of family and friends, high school and college friends, who came over here to watch. And they have access to the village, so I was like, 'Guys, I've got to go to bed,' but they talked me into going out with them, and I hung around with them a little bit. I didn't get done NBC stuff until like 2:30 a.m., so it ended up being pretty laid back."

2. Usain Bolt likes to refer to himself as the world's greatest athlete, and he can make a pretty good case. But after he won the 200 meters, he said it was you because you do 10 events. Had you heard about that?

Eaton: "I heard about that, and it was cool. But we each have our own accolades and accomplishments and things we do well. He's the fastest man who has ever walked the face of the earth. That's what the 100-meter guy gets. The winner of the decathlon gets world's greatest athlete. I do see the decathlon as one big event. I think about it as a whole. The whole thing is challenging, there's never one event that I was super-good at. One day I'll do the shot-put and I just may not be getting it and I'll be super frustrated. The next day it may be the discus that I'm not getting and I'll be super frustrated. It's mostly equal across the board."

3. Do you feel like there's some kind of expectation of you to bring the decathlon more into the sports consciousness in the United States? It has this rich history, from Jim Thorpe to Bruce Jenner and more recently, Dan O'Brien, and yet it has this perception as sort of an afterthought compared to what it was a couple of decades ago.

Eaton: "I don't really feel the pressure of it. I think no matter what people say it's always ebb and flow in terms of popularity. This may be a new height, who knows, or it may be coming up right now. I love it, and I hope I help some other people love it like I do. But it's not really something you can control beyond being a good representative of the sport and giving it your best every time you compete.''

4. Dan O'Brien has said you're the best ever. You have the world record for total points in a meet [9,039], and now you have a gold medal. How much higher can you go? Is there a specific goal?

Eaton: I think I can eventually score a lot of points. I used to have a set number, but you know, I got to it. That's why I don't set goals, because I'm like, 'Who knows?' But I would like to score 9,200 points. I think I can do that.''

5. Was there ever a sport or a discipline that you didn't really take to? Tell me you weren't much of a pee-wee hockey player or something like that.

Eaton: Nah, I don't know that I played hockey. I was one of those kids who everything I tried sports-related I liked. You know what I wasn't good at? Swimming. No swimming for me. Terrible. If they add that as an 11th event, I'd have to get [Michael] Phelps to do it for me."

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