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, a former University of Oregon athlete from Bend, 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, of Castle High, 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 the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, 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.