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On Olympics: In Bolt’s Long Shadow, Ashton Eaton’s Excellence Peeks Through

“I think Ash might prefer being an engineer sometimes; I really do,” said Don Butzner, Eaton’s physical therapist.

For now, he remains a decathlete, and though the focus Thursday was on Bolt’s eighth career gold medal, Eaton joined an elite club of his own by successfully defending his Olympic title.

“The decathlon is exclusive company,” Eaton said after beating the fast-improving Frenchman Kévin Mayer for gold with a total of 8,893 points. “I’m just happy to be part of the family, the decathlon family, regardless of the records.”

Photo

Usain Bolt of Jamaica after winning the 200-meter final on Thursday at the Rio Games.

Credit
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

It does feel more like a brotherhood than a guild, and one of the more reaffirming moments in sports is when the decathlon’s final event, the 1,500 meters, is done and the exhausted contestants — when they’ve finally picked themselves up after collapsing — congratulate one another for simply finishing.

“We are competing against ourselves,” Eaton said.

By that standard, Eaton lost Thursday,…

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