The Eaton Ecosystem
July 02, 2016
Since 1912, the winner of the decathlon has been christened “the World’s Greatest Athlete,” his status confirmed by a final tally that aggregates the marks (determined by a complex scoring table) from each of the competition’s events. At the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Ashton Eaton earned this prestigious title by registering a world-record 9,045 points. The feat was accomplished over two 15-hour days, yet Eaton only competed for approximately ten minutes of these 30 hours, indicating that what goes on off the track is just as important as what happens on it. As Eaton’s coach Harry Marra puts it: “It's not just running down a runway for ten seconds and jumping for five seconds and throwing the shot put.”
To validate his declaration, Marra provided insight into the fine points of each event, detailing why at the end of the two days, he’ll be as tired as Eaton himself. Also included in Eaton’s ultimate performance equation is his Nike equipment, which last year evolved to include a custom cooling hood. This summer, Nike has further developed the champion’s collection of tailor-made innovations, based upon his insight, Nike designers’ observations and the event’s unique demands.
Below, an inside look at the elements that will support Eaton as he attempts to best his own record.
- 1 . Eaton gets a maximum of five hours sleep between day one and day two, so he stockpiles the night before the event with 10 to 12 hours of Zzzs.
- 2 . Eaton lays out his kit at night (shoes, sweats, kit, bib) so he can just get up and go.
- 3 . Every decathlon location is different, so Eaton is prepared to execute his 5am pre-meet warm-up anywhere. In London in 2012, he warmed up on the city streets. In Beijing in 2015, he warmed up in the hotel. For a recent New York competition, he warmed up in a dance studio.
- 4 . Between competitions, decathletes retreat to a rest area, usually situated under the stadium. Here, they can relax, graze a buffet and debrief with their coaches. Eaton uses the time to recline and visualize the next event.
- 5 . When possible, Eaton takes a cool shower between events to lower his body temperature and rejuvenate.
- 6 . To combat heat on the field, Eaton wears his Nike cooling hood.
- 7 . Eaton has developed the ability to fall asleep in three or four minutes and snooze for fifteen, which helps keep him fresh.
- 8 . To retain focus, Eaton places performance cues from Marra on little pieces of paper inside his shoes and reviews them prior to the respective event.
- 9 . If Eaton nails a throw or jump on his first attempt (decathletes have three attempts, but only retain their top score), Marra will tell him to skip the additional two attempts to save energy.
- 10 . Eaton and Marra employ a punch-in, punch-out philosophy: They’ll punch into an event at warm-up. The second the event is over, they’ll punch out. This keeps Eaton from letting earlier performances (good or bad) affect his next event.
Eaton eats whatever he wants before and during competition. Here are 10 items that often appear on his competition menu.
- 1 . Toast
- 2 . Coffee
- 3 . Energy bars
- 4 . Sports drinks
- 5 . Watermelon with salt
- 6 . Turkey sandwiches
- 7 . Yoghurt, granola and nuts
- 8 . Orange juice
- 9 . Steak
- 10 . Water
Coach Marra will be “on” from the moment he and Eaton meet at 5am in the hotel on day one until the media zone ends after 11pm on day two. Here are just 10 examples of the countless tasks on Marra’s plate throughout the competition.
- 1 . Maximizing warm-ups with the help of his coaching kit, which will be stocked with measuring tapes, chalk, adhesive tape and whistles.
- 2 . Monitoring his position in the coaching box, so he has the best angle from which to observe each event.
- 3 . Critiquing the minutiae of Eaton’s form in every event.
- 4 . Providing two to four performance cues to Eaton per event, in anticipation of and in response to the athlete’s performance.
- 5 . Gauging the wind, to inform Eaton of its possible performance effects.
- 6 . Scrutinizing Eaton’s liquid intake.
- 7 . Determining the height Eaton should designate as his first high-jump attempt (based upon his practice jumps).
- 8 . Ensuring the correct poles for Eaton’s pole vault are on the field, in the appropriate location.
- 9 . Designating the rate at which Eaton should anticipate each lap of the 1,500 meters, depending upon his level of fatigue approaching the final event.
- 10 . Anticipating Eaton’s post-competition needs, including flats to replace his spikes and an energy bar, because after he wins he heads straight to the media zone.
Eaton’s test over 10 events is, as established, both mental and physical. Speed and strength alone don’t define the success of a decathlete, there’s technique, too. Therefore, Eaton’s equipment must meet needs both specific to the sport and to the athlete. And there are also the standard requirements: discus, javelin and shot put
- 1 . Bag: Proper organization saves time and energy. Both are critical in the decathlon — energy crucial for maximum achievement, time for maximum focus. Designed by members of Nike’s cross-functional NXT team, Eaton’s roller bag includes a series of internal pockets to keep shoes (eight different competition pairs), tape, notes, bibs, extra socks and more in order.
- 2 . Track spikes: Eaton wears the Nike Zoom Superfly Elite for the 100 meters, 110-meter hurdles and day one’s concluding event, the 400 meters. On day two, he wears the Nike Zoom Victory 3 for the decathlon’s final race, the 1,500 meters.
- 3 . Jumping spikes: Eaton wears the Nike Zoom LJ 4 for the long jump, the Nike High Jump Elite for its eponymous event and the Nike Zoom Triple Jump Elite for the pole vault.
- 4 . Throwing shoes: Eaton wears a different shoe for each of the decathlon’s three throwing events. Two — the Nike Zoom Javelin Elite and Nike Zoom SD4 — are connected to their respective disciplines. His third choice, the Nike Air Zoom Odyssey for the shot put, recalls Eaton’s idiosyncratic nature (it’s a running shoe).
- 5 . The discus is 22 centimeters in diameter and weighs 2 kilograms.
- 6 . A shot put weighs 7.260 kilograms.
- 7 . Shot-put sleeve: Custom-made for Eaton by Nike, the athlete’s shot-put sleeve compresses his forearm to assist the reflex motion of the wrist while providing a support traditionally ascribed to tape. The sleeve’s straps allow Eaton to adjust tension with ease between throws, helping to increase his confidence.
- 8 . Eaton’s javelin measures between 2.6 and 2.7 meters and weighs 800 grams.
- 9 . A cooler for carrying drinks and transporting his custom cooling hood.
- 10 . Cooling hood: During jumping and throwing events, Eaton can be out in the field for several consecutive hours. Driven by a desire to provide the sensorial relief of pouring a bottle of water over one’s head, the tailor-made Nike cooling hood allows Eaton to momentarily reduce surface heat and, when tinted lenses are attached, cast a striking silhouette.
Eaton holds not only the world-record decathlon score, but also decathlon world records in the long jump and 400 meters. His personal best in each event serves as the touch point for future goals.
- 1 . 100 meters: 00:10:21 seconds on June 22, 2012, in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
- 2 . Long Jump: 8.23 meters on June 22, 2012, in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
- 3 . Shot Put: 15.40 meters on March 30, 2013, in Palo Alto, California, USA.
- 4 . High Jump: 2.11 meters on June 10, 2012 in Vancouver, Canada.
- 5 . 400 meters: 00:45:00 seconds on August 28, 2015 in Beijing, China.
- 6 . 110-meter Hurdles: 13.35 seconds on June 4, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
- 7 . Discus: 47.36 meters on August 14, 2011 in Chula Vista, California, USA.
- 8 . Pole Vault: 5.40 meters on August 8, 2015 in Portland, Oregon, USA.
- 9 . Javelin: 66.53 meters on March 16, 2013 in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.
- 10 . 1,500 meters: 4:14:48 on June 23, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Total Score: 9045 points on August 29, 2015 in Beijing, China.