The United States' Ashton Eaton leads in the men's decathlon 1500-meter Thursday at Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Eaton won the gold medal for the event.
LONDON — Instead of one victory lap, Ashton Eaton got four.
His Olympic gold medal in the decathlon was all but sealed when he reached the last event, the 1,500 meters, where he simply needed to finish in an average time to win the event on Thursday night.
The world-record holder cruised over the four laps, crossed the line and fell to the track — partly of exhaustion but mostly out of elation.
Eaton finished the two-day competition with 8,869 points to defeat fellow American Trey Hardee by 198. It’s the first time the Americans have gone 1-2 in the Olympic decathlon since Milton Gray Campbell and Rafer Johnson in 1956.
“That’s what Trey and I really, really wanted,” said Eaton, who’s from Eugene, Ore.
Especially this year, on the 100th anniversary of the event. At the 1912 Olympics, Jim Thorpe won the inaugural title.
Thanks to Eaton, the decathlon gold is staying in the United States. Eaton joins 2008 winner Bryan Clay and, of course, Bruce Jenner, in earning the honor as “The World’s Greatest Athlete.”
Even Usain Bolt, the star of the night with his victory in the 200 meters, was impressed.
“I’m a great athlete, but to do 10 events, especially the 1,500 — I’ve got to give it to him,” Bolt said.
Though the warm-and-sunny conditions in London were far better than the rain, wind and cold at U.S. Olympic trials in Oregon where Eaton broke the record earlier this summer, he fell short of the mark by 170 points.
Not that it mattered. His goal was simply to win a medal, not eclipse his world mark of 9,039 points.
“I’m satisfied,” Eaton said as he struggled to put his accomplishment into words.
So Hardee did that for him.
Given that Eaton is just 24 and heading into his prime, Hardee’s not sure anyone is going to catch up to him anytime soon.
“It’s safe to say my reign is over,” said Hardee, a two-time world champion. “I still think my best decathlon is ahead of me, but Ashton’s are, too.
“As the days and weeks and months and years pass, I think Ashton and I will look back on this and realize how special it really is and what this really meant.”
Eaton was consistent throughout the schedule. He started off by breaking Bill Toomey’s 44-year-old Olympic record in the decathlon 100-meter dash and took off from there. He also scored the most points in the long jump and 400 meters.
His only lackluster event was the discus, where he finished 22nd and lost points to the field. But it really didn’t matter as he built his lead back up in the pole vault, where he wound up third.
Soon after finishing the 1,500, Eaton was greeted by his fellow competitors, each giving him a congratulatory slap on the back. After hugging Hardee, Eaton dashed over to embrace his fiancee, Brianne Theisen.
“This is super hard to grasp,” Eaton said. “For me, I want 10 perfect events. If I really felt like I was the world’s greatest athlete, I’d get 10 great events. But I know that’s pretty much not possible. That’s the toughness of the decathlon.”
Asked if winning gold was more difficult than breaking the world mark, Eaton chuckled and said, “Yeah.”
“Decathlons in the U.S. are so much easier, because of the time frame,” he said. “I think I competed in Eugene for the world record for a total of 13 hours. That’s what we competed just today. These are way harder.”
More satisfying, too.
Shields, Taylor, Adams win women’s boxing titles
LONDON — Claressa Shields ducked one punch, deftly leaned away from another, and stuck her tongue out at her Russian opponent. Just an American teenager having a little fun.
After all, Nadezda Torlopova is nearly twice Shields’ age and about half her speed. And Shields had to laugh at any boxer trying to get between her and a historic Olympic gold medal.
The 17-year-old middleweight from Flint, Mich., beat Torlopova 19-12 on Thursday, capping her rapid ascent through women’s boxing with a title in its Olympic debut.
“This was something I wanted for a long time, even when boxing wasn’t going all right, even when my life wasn’t going all right,” said Shields, who found sanctuary in a boxing gym during a rough childhood.
“All I wanted was a gold medal, and I kept working towards it, even when people were saying I couldn’t do it. I’m too young. I couldn’t do it. There were girls who were going to beat me because of better experience, more experience. I proved them all wrong.”
Shields did it in style — shuffle-stepping, brawling and even winning over a crowd that showed up to cheer Irish lightweight Katie Taylor and British flyweight Nicola Adams, who also won gold medals.
Shields had her hand over her heart on the medal podium when she abruptly burst into laughter, her head snapping back almost as if she had just been punched in the face.
That’s a feeling her opponents in the first Olympic women’s boxing tournament know quite well.
Only they’re not laughing.
“I’m surprised I didn’t cry,” Shields said. “I was sweating, though.”
Shields, Taylor and Adams triumphed in rapid succession on the final day of the London Games’ landmark tournament, claiming the first Olympic titles in a growing sport that was banned in Britain until 1996.
The five-day event was one of London’s biggest hits. And even amid the sea of Irish fans cheering Taylor’s every move, Shields was one of the breakout stars of the games. An ugly Olympics for the U.S. team ended with a performance worthy of Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, Oscar De La Hoya and every American Olympic champion that came before Shields.
Shields found her purpose with coach Jason Crutchfield at Berston Field House in Flint after her father — who spent seven years of Claressa’s childhood in prison — infused her with a passion for boxing. Shields has turned into a polished athlete with a wild streak in the ring.
Even the 33-year-old Torlopova had to applaud the ascent of her division’s new ruler.
“She’s young, after all, and she’s quicker,” Torlopova said. “It happens that speed overcame experience. Something was lacking, most probably speed. After the second round, when they announced I was two points down, I knew that was it. … You have to know how to lose. She’s a worthy opponent. Good job.”
Shields capped her rise through the amateur ranks in the past two years with three strong performances in the London ring, providing USA Boxing with a much-needed boost. Shields won the 12-member American team’s only gold medal in London, and flyweight Marlen Esparza took a bronze, but the winningest nation in Olympic boxing history got no medals from its men’s team for the first time.
“I don’t think anybody would feel bad about me representing them,” Shields said. “I think I did a pretty good job.”
Most of the raucous crowd came to see Taylor, who won Ireland’s first gold medal at these Olympics amid a patriotic fervor of Irish flags, songs and thousands of devoted fans who treat her as a sports icon at home.
Taylor’s victory, a 10-8 win over Russia’s Sofya Ochigava, was perhaps the least memorable part of the afternoon. She barely beat Ochigava in a defensive fight, relying on a 4-1 points swing in the third round after trailing midway through the bout.
Unlike most of Taylor’s fights, the result was still in doubt when the judges’ scores were announced. Taylor fell to her knees and looked skyward when her arm was raised, bringing an even louder roar from the fans, many of them in green face paint and elaborate Irish-themed costumes.
Taylor took a victory lap of ExCel arena after the medal ceremony, trailing a green, white and orange Irish flag behind her.
“It’s been the dream of my life,” said Taylor, a four-time world champion. “The support was incredible. I was a bit shaky during the fight. She is a great boxer.”
Ochigava predicted Wednesday she would lose a close fight to the arena favorite, and Taylor’s longtime foil wore an exasperated look of disbelief after the final scores were announced. She accepted her silver medal with arms folded across her chest, refusing to acknowledge the crowd’s cheers — but she hugged Taylor when all the medalists posed for photos later.
“It was difficult to fight when everything is against you,” Ochigava said. “There’s a lot of support for Katie, but I imagined that all of them are supporting me. I wanted to get the gold. It seemed I could do almost anything, but it wasn’t enough.”
Taylor is the unofficial pound-for-pound champion of women’s boxing after winning her world titles with an entertaining style. Ochigava is Taylor’s only rival for lightweight supremacy, and the Russian criticized Taylor on Wednesday after both fighters won semifinal bouts, saying her Irish foe gets star treatment from referees and judges.
Try telling that to the crowd that embraced Taylor with unmatched fervor, realizing the Irish team’s flag-bearer was their best hope for gold in London. Taylor eventually teared up as she left the ring in her robe, but got it together for the medal ceremony, taking another victory lap around the arena with the flag trailing behind her.
Adams got nearly as much love for a victory that was perhaps even more impressive. She stunned world champion Ren Cancan of China in a 16-7 win that was met with cheers from a crowd that included the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton.
Adams knocked down Ren — a rare occurrence in such a high-level amateur fight — in the second round with a left to the throat and a right to the head. She eventually finished off the top-seeded flyweight, dominating the middle rounds by a combined 10-3.
Adams celebrated the final bell by throwing a few punches at the roaring home crowd. Adams’ two British teammates also were favored to medal, but lost early.
“I am so happy and overwhelmed with joy right now,” Adams said. “I have wanted this all my life, and I have done it.”
DAY 13 ROUNDUP:
Among the track finals on tap for today is the men’s 4x400-meter relay, which took on added intrigue with Oscar Pistorius and South Africa making the field and a gutsy preliminary performance by Manteo Mitchell of the U.S.
The man known as “Blade Runner” because of his carbon-fiber prosthetics will get a chance to run for an Olympic medal after officials accepted South Africa’s protest over a collision and awarded an extra spot in the final. Pistorius already is the first amputee to compete on a Summer Games track.
Mitchell was halfway through the opening lap of the relay heat when he felt something pop in his left leg. He managed to keep going and helped the Americans tie for first with the Bahamas in 2:58.87.
A few hours later, doctors told him he had a broken leg.
“I heard it and I felt it,” Mitchell told The Associated Press. “But I figured it’s what almost any person would’ve done in that situation.”
The rest of the Olympic action Thursday:
The U.S. women’s team faced its first challenge of the Olympics, and found a way to advance.
Trailing early in the second half, Auriemma turned to his Olympic rookies and the group — led by Tina Charles and Lindsay Whalen — pressured Australia into turnovers and bad shots. That led to a pivotal scoring run in the third quarter of an 86-73 victory.
The Americans, seeking a fifth straight gold medal, next play France in a matchup of unbeaten teams. It will be the first time the two teams have played in the Olympics.
Lauren Jackson finished with 14 points for Australia.
Edwige Lawson-Wade had 18 points to lead France to an 81-64 victory over Russia in the other semi.
CYCLING - BMX
Defending champion Maris Strombergs of Latvia eased into the semifinals after escaping an avalanche of crashes at the London Velopark.
Strombergs was among eight riders who advanced after three qualifying runs. World champion Sam Willoughby of Australia had to complete two more runs before sealing his own spot in the semis.
There were more than 20 crashes throughout the day. The London Olympic course, with its big jumps and tight corners, has proved to be one of the most difficult in the world.
Time trial world champion Connor Fields of the United States was unbeaten after three runs and also qualified directly for the next round.
Eva Risztov of Hungary led most of the way in a grueling open water marathon at Hyde Park, holding off a desperate bid to chase her down by American Haley Anderson.
The big crowd was hoping for a gold medal from world champion Keri-anne Payne, but the British swimmer finished fourth.
Risztov beat Anderson by four-tenths of a second after nearly two hours of racing around The Serpentine. The winner climbed out of the water, smiling and looking fresh. She even flexed for the big crowd.
Risztov retired from swimming after the 2004 Olympics, upset with her results and tired of the pool. She eventually decided to give open water a try, and it sure worked out in a big way.
Martina Grimaldi of Italy got the bronze in the 10-kilometer race.
Germany’s Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann beat reigning world champions Alison and Emanuel of Brazil 23-21, 16-21, 16-14 in the men’s final.
It was the first gold medal for a European team in a sport that has been dominated by the Brazilians and Americans.
Brazil saved three match points to tie it after falling behind 14-11. But needing to win by two in the third set, Germany took a 15-14 lead and then won it when Emanuel’s spike landed just wide of the sideline.
Janis Smedins and Martins Plavins of Latvia took the bronze.
Chen Ruolin of China won the women’s 10-meter platform gold, easily defending her title from Beijing.
Chen totaled 422.30 points during the five-dive final, winning by a 55.80-point margin. She earlier won gold in the 10-meter synchronized and swept the platform events for the second consecutive games.
China has won six of seven diving gold medals with only the men’s platform remaining.
Brittany Broben, a 16-year-old from Australia competing in her first Olympics, took the silver at 366.50. Pandelela Pamg of Malaysia was third.
Russia led the technical routine of the team event — as expected.
Russia has won this event at the past three Olympics. Featuring Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina, the pair that won the duet Tuesday, it collected a near-perfect 98.1 points.
The favorites competed to a Russian dance routine composed by Denis Garnizov, as Prince William’s wife, Kate, looked on from the crowd.
China was next with 97.0 points and Spain finished third with 96.2 points.
Medals will be handed out after Friday’s free routines, with points from both days added up.
The quartet of Tate Smith, Dave Smith, Murray Stewart and Jacob Clear gave Australia a lift with a surprising wire-to-wire win in the men’s 1,000-meter K-4.
It was Australia’s first team gold in canoe sprint — and took its overall tally in London to six after wins by cyclist Anna Meares, 100-meter hurdler Sally Pearson and sailors Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the past three days.
Germany collected two more victories, with Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber taking the women’s 500-meter K-2 and Peter Kretschmer and Kurt Kuschela winning the men’s double canoe sprint 1,000.
Danuta Kozak won her second gold of the regatta for Hungary, grabbing the top spot in the women’s single kayak 500-meter sprint.
GYMNASTICS - RHYTHMIC
Daria Dmitrieva upstaged fellow Russian Evgeniya Kanaeva, taking advantage of the defending Olympic champion’s mistake in her hoop routine to top the standings halfway through individual qualifying.
With 57.80 points, Dmitrieva is 0.175 points ahead of Kanaeva going into Friday’s qualifying session with the ribbon and clubs. Liubou Charkashnya of Belarus was third.
Russia continued its big day in group qualifying, taking the lead over three-time world champion Italy. Russia, seeking its fourth straight Olympic title, scored 28.375 points for its routine with five balls, while Italy was .275 points behind.
ELSEWHERE IN LONDON
Irish lightweight Katie Taylor and British flyweight Nicola Adams also won boxing gold medals. … Canada won the bronze in women’s soccer, beating France 1-0 at Coventry. … Defending champion Norway will face Montenegro in the women’s handball final Saturday. … Germany and the Netherlands will meet for the men’s field hockey title on Saturday. … Charlotte Dujardin of Britain won the individual dressage gold medal on Valegro, scoring 90.089 percent in the deciding grand prix musical freestyle which featured Olympic theme music and chimes from Big Ben. Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands, riding Parzival, won silver, while Laura Bechtolsheimer of Britain on Mistral Hojris took the bronze. … Women’s freestyle wrestling golds went to Japan’s Saori Yoshida (55-kilogram) and Russia’s Natalia Vorobieva (72-kg). … Turkey’s Servet Tazegul (men’s 68-kg) and Britain’s Jade Jones (women’s 57-kg) won taekwondo golds. … The men’s 470 medals race was abandoned because there wasn’t enough wind on the nicest day of the sailing regatta. It was rescheduled for Friday.