This TOJ, along with some family, had the opportunity to attend a parade in honor of Ashton Eaton, winner of the Gold Medal in the decathlon at the London Olympics a couple months ago. Eaton was raised in Bend, Oregon, where we now live.
Judging by the huge turnout of people in Bend of all ages lining the street, people agree with the marquee on the theatre along the parade route, declaring Ashton Eaton the World's Best Athlete.
Some would probably contest that feeling others are just as deserving, like the top Ironman Triathlete (bike, run, swim) or CrossFit champion, who does all kinds of weird stuff like push sleds, flip tractor tires, do handstands, and sprint or run, sometimes carrying an awkward weight. Maybe there's a Navy SEAL, who's name we'll never know, who could beat all of them.
Or course, there's no definite answer to what constitutes a greatest athlete, any more than there is what it means to be fit. That you can run an ultramarathon or deadlift 800 lbs.? Does it really make any difference? But the decathlon, which requires strength, speed, power, and skills in 10 track and field events conducted over two days, testing all three energy systems in the body to their maximums, sure puts you in the running for a title.
They say you could tell Ashton was different when he hit high school. He was very good at several sports and seemed to have a unique drive and focus found in only in champions. He was fortunate, also, to have tremendous physical abilities, mostly from good genes, that were developed further by hard work and solid coaching. Below is a picture of him walking in the parade with his medal around his neck.
They had a nice welcoming ceremony for him and gave him a key to the city. He made some simple, heartfelt remarks about growing up in Bend, how it provided the social and athletic resources to support to his development. It was sort of an "It's Takes a Village" message. He's a humble and gracious champion.
After the ceremony, he did a fun run with a horde of elementary aged children inspired by his achievement. This TOJ thought about Aston while lifting weights today, all the sweat and time he put into his training. Wow!
I guess that's what Olympic champions do for all of us. Inspire!