Interesting article on "Is Decathlon Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton Now The World's Greatest Athlete?"
The author actually says that "I submit that triathlon needs to be in the conversation for "world's greatest athlete.""
Just like clockwork, every 4 years, the day after the Olympic Decathlon reporters raise this same question. This of course, is immediately followed by a barrage of call-ins from guys who got cut from their JV high school football team 20 years ago and haven't exercised a day since, who truly believe that you can't be considered a real athlete unless you play in the NFL or the NBA. In the aftermath of Usain Bolt's 2nd straight Olympic 100m victory, several guys called in to SportsTalk 980 questioning if he could hold up in the NFL and trying to argue that it's harder to make it in football than it is in track (like the world's fastest man can't outrun a 280 pound linebacker). Seriously!?! It's harder to make a few hundred thousand dollars (league minimum!) riding the bench as a 3rd stringer than it is to be the 5th fastest guy in the world (which is basically what it takes to land a track endorsement and not have to work a 2nd job while training)!?!
It's an interesting debate, particularly given the decathlon has declined in popularity over the years (I would argue a lot of that has to do with NBC's biased broadcasting - they show you an entire beach volleyball qualifying match and enough diving to bore you to tears, but only bits and pieces of the decathon). Yes, Eaton's throws and mid-distance times are lacking (Eaton and the rest of the field looked like they were jogging the 1500... Eaton finished at 4:54 mile pace). But it would take a much bigger build to match world champion throws, and a much leaner one to keep up with the fastest distance runners. Shalene Flanagan would look awkward enough trying to pick up a shot put, much less heave it any sizeable distance. And imagine the German Discus gold medalist (more famous for his insane gold medal celebration) lumbering along trying to avoid being lapped on the 1500!
The point is the decathlon was designed 100 years ago to crown "the world's greatest athlete", and it is still the best competition we have to do this. It tests speed, strength, agility, coordination, endurance and mental fortitude. By definition, I would say the world's greatest athlete is the world's most well-rounded athlete (yet the author disagrees with this). Probably the best at nothing, but really strong at everything. Usain Bolt has proven to be the world's greatest, but only when it comes to sprint speed... this says nothing about his endurance, strength, coordination, or many other things necessary to be an all-around athlete.
I know I'm going to take some flack here, but I will argue triathlon is less a measure of a complete athlete than the decathlon. Triathlon does a FAR better job in measuring endurance (the 1500 is the only endurance event in the decathlon, and that's a mid-distance race). And, in the decathlon you can be crowned "world's greatest athlete" without being able to swim, or face anyone head-to-head (like in boxing, wrestling, fencing, etc). Yet tri is mainly an endurance event. Further, it over-emphasizes the bike, a skill not required of athletes in any other non-cycling sport. Plus, it doesn't measure sprint speed (save for the women's Olympic finish!), brute strength, coordination, or direct face-to-face competition that is necessary to be the world's greatest athlete.
In terms of measuring "world's greatest athlete", I think the decathlon is a better format. Altho maybe it should be modified to include such things as swimming, wrestling, a true endurance running event, and something that measures coordination, while eliminating one of the throws and one of the jumps (probably the pole vault), as these are probably over-emphasized.
as bruce jenner said in an interview the decathlon does measure the best athlete.
in the terms of using a standardized test way to see who can literally "run, jump and throw" the best.
yes swimming and cycling are other events that show athleticism but when you think about it the general basic test of "running jummping and throwing" is what most people think of when saying athlete.
Could argue at various times heavyweight boxing champs like Ali have been The Greatest. Quickness, power, guile, stamina, and the willingness to put your life on the line.
Mike Tyson: World's Greatest Athlete!
I'm not sure I'd consider him the world's greatest athlete, but heavyweight champ George Forman (who also had a near death experience with heatstroke) may very well be the nicest guy in sports (or formerly in sports!) Check out his autobiography "God in My Corner"... it will lift anyone's spirits! Besides discussing his boxing career, he talks about his spiritual journey, about going from rags to riches back to rags and back to riches, and about why he's the happiest person you'll ever meet.
Russian synchronized swimming... the entire team. Easily.
The decathlon at the Olympics determines the best athlete in the world - period. The ten events of the decathlon is contested over two days which tests all the physical characteristics possible, whether it be speed, power, strength, agility, endurance and balance. In two events, the pole vault and high jump, each decathlete continues in the event until eliminated. Sometimes they could be jumping 2-3 times at each height which could me 10-12 times. Believe me as a track coach, I have seen my athletes become worn down after just one of these events.
By no means is this a disrespect to the triathlon, an event at the Olympics where they only compete once. A decathon is a true test of a complete athlete.
Oh, and I agree that the lack of coverage of the decathlon is an embarrassment, especially when the US had its top athlete going for a world record.
Kudos (and laurels) to Eaton on his accomplishment.
I concur with Hugh completely (well, other than the bit about being a track coach!). Also, view the initial article through the prism that (most of) the rest of the world takes "athletics" and its cognates to mean track and field, rather than the whole gamut of sporting endeavours under the aegis of a US University's "Athletics Department"...
Having spent the first 9 days of the Olympics in the UK, the US TV coverage upon my return was woeful.
Finally, I love the fact that in German, the decathlon is called the Zehnkampf -- "ten struggles!"
I think it's laughable that a triathlete should be considered the world's greatest athlete. Thanks for the laugh though :)