Monday, June 18, 2018
Sports

all-around glory

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Ashton Eaton became the third man to win back-to-back decathlon gold medals, matching the Olympic record with 8,893 points after 10 lung-busting events.

Eaton finished third in the final event Thursday, the 1,500 meters, to win gold from France's Kevin Mayer, who had 8,834 points. Canada's Damian Warner took the bronze.

Eaton, 28, has now won successive Olympic and world titles to confirm his status at the best all-around athlete in the world. He follows the double golds of Britain's Daley Thompson in 1980 and '84, and American Bob Mathias in 1948 and '52

Also delivering gold for the Americans was former Gator Kerron Clement and Dalilah Muhammad in the men's and women's 400 hurdles, and Ryan Crouser, who led a one-two U.S. finish in the shot put.

Clement was so confident of winning a first Olympic individual gold that in January he pushed aside his other track medals and cleared out an empty space in the trophy cabinet in his Gainesville townhouse. For a place-holder, he put pen to paper and wrote: gold medal, 2016.

Clement was so certain that when he was packing for Rio de Janeiro, he made certain that his mother, Claudette, included the family's American flag. He figured he would need something to parade around the Olympic Stadium track after he won.

Clement was so certain that even when a young runner from Kenya looked as if he would catch Clement late in the final and snatch away the gold, the American didn't worry a bit.

"I knew I was going to get that gold medal, and I was sticking to that plan," Clement, 30, said. "Nothing and no one was going to stop me from achieving that."

Clement won in 47.73 seconds, 0.05 ahead of Kenya's Boniface Mucheru Tumuti, 24.

Clement has two world championship gold medals, but the Olympic title had eluded him. Now he has individual gold to go with his 400 hurdles silver medal and 1,600 relay gold from 2008.

But four years ago, Clement finished last in the Olympic final. Along the way, he has dealt with a variety of injuries and surgeries, and after the 2013 World Championships, he realized he needed to step away from the track to allow mind and body to rest. By the time he started eyeing the 2015 track and field calendar, he could feel the itch.

"When I came back, I found a new love for the hurdles," he said.

Muhammad went out hard and held on strong to win the women's 400 hurdles in 53.13. European champion Sara Slott Peterson of Denmark took silver, and the United States picked up another bronze with Ashley Spencer storming home to finish third in personal best 53.72.

Crouser, a four-time NCAA champion at Texas, won the shot put gold medal with an Olympic-record throw of 73 feet, 103/4 inches, topping world champion Kovacs' throw of 71-51/2.

Also, the U.S. women's 400 relay team ran alone in a race that looked just like a practice session, with one mighty difference: A place in the Olympic final was on the line.

The defending Olympic champions in the relay, the Americans successfully protested that in their morning heat Allyson Felix was bumped in her baton handover to English Gardner by a Brazilian runner and was thrown offstride, causing her to make a faulty exchange.

The Americans were given another chance to qualify in the evening. The same four runners ran in the same order — Tampa resident Tianna Bartoletta, Felix, Gardner and Morolake Akinosun — but they were the only runners on the track. They were timed in 41.77 seconds, the top qualifying time. China, timed at 42.70, was dropped out of the field for the final.

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