A. Eaton's superb decathlon 9045 points world record got me thinking about the level of performance of combined event athletes. I must admit that the results of my analysis were really surprising (for myself at least). I was under the impression that the top decathletes and heptathletes were performing at around 90 % of their potential. This would have meant that if one added the scores of the personal records of Eaton in each of the ten events, one would have found a score of the order of 10000 points.

I did precisely this calculation and here is what I found.

I did precisely this calculation and here is what I found.

Event | Decathlon | points | Personal | points |
---|---|---|---|---|

100 m | 10.23 | 1040 | 10.21 | 1044 |

Long Jump | 7.88 m | 1030 | 8.23 m | 1120 |

Shot Put | 14.52 m | 760 | 15.40 m | 814 |

High Jump | 2.01 m | 813 | 2.11 m | 906 |

400 m | 45.00 | 1060 | 45.00 | 1060 |

110 m Hurdles | 13.69 m | 1015 | 13.35 | 1060 |

Discus Throw | 43.43 m | 733 | 47.36 m | 816 |

Pole Vault | 5.20 m | 972 | 5.40 m | 1035 |

Javelin Throw | 63.63 m | 793 | 66.64 m | 838 |

1500 m | 4:17.52 | 829 | 4:14.48 | 850 |

Total | 9045 | 9543 |

Eaton's 9045 points record is a good 95 % of his maximum. To say that I was impressed by this is an understatement. And then I started thinking that perhaps Eaton is not that exceptional in performing so close to his maximum. Thus I went back to R. Sebrle's 9026 world record and computed his possible maximum.

Here are the results:

Event | Decathlon | points | Personal | points |
---|---|---|---|---|

100 m | 10.64 | 942 | 10.64 | 942 |

Long Jump | 8.11 m | 1089 | 8.11 m | 1089 |

Shot Put | 15.33 m | 810 | 16.47 m | 880 |

High Jump | 2.12 m | 915 | 2.15 m | 944 |

400 m | 47.79 | 919 | 47.76 | 921 |

110 m Hurdles | 13.92 | 985 | 13.79 | 1002 |

Discus Throw | 47.92 m | 827 | 49.46 m | 859 |

Pole Vault | 4.80 m | 849 | 5.20 m | 972 |

Javelin Throw | 70.16 m | 892 | 71.18 m | 907 |

1500 m | 4:21.98 | 798 | 4:21.98 | 798 |

Total | 9026 | 9314 |

In fact they are even more surprising that Eaton's. Sebrle was performing at 97 % of his maximum. So the natural question was "how about women?". I decided to analyse the records of J. Joyner-Kersee and of C. Klüft, World and European record holders respectively.

For Joyner-Kersee we have the following results

Event | Heptathlon | points | Personal | points |
---|---|---|---|---|

100 m Hurdles | 12.69 | 1172 | 12.61 | 1184 |

High Jump | 1.86 m | 1054 | 1.93 m | 1145 |

Shot Put | 15.80 m | 915 | 16.00 m | 928 |

200 m | 22.56 | 1123 | 22.30 | 1150 |

Long Jump | 7.27 m | 1264 | 7.49 m | 1341 |

Javelin Throw | 45.66 m | 776 | 50.08 m | 862 |

800 m | 2:08.51 | 987 | 2:08.51 | 987 |

Total | 7291 | 7597 |

which means that her world record stands at 96 % of her maximum.

For Klüft things are even better.

Event | Heptathlon | points | Personal | points |
---|---|---|---|---|

100 m Hurdles | 13.15 | 1102 | 13.15 | 1102 |

High Jump | 1.95 m | 1171 | 1.95 m | 1171 |

Shot Put | 14.81 m | 848 | 15.05 m | 864 |

200 m | 23.38 | 1041 | 22.98 | 1081 |

Long Jump | 6.85 m | 1122 | 6.97 m | 1162 |

Javelin Throw | 47.98 m | 821 | 50.96 m | 879 |

800 m | 2:12.56 | 927 | 2:08.89 | 981 |

Total | 7032 | 7240 |

Her heptathlon record is at 97 % of her possible meximum.

The trend is now clear. Combined event specialists do perform very close to their possible maximum. In fact compared to the other top deca/heptathletes Eaton is slightly underperforming. Could he reach the 97 % of his maximum, as Sebrle and Klüft did, the world record would soar at a whopping 9250 points.

Combined events champions are often seen as supermen/women and after having carried through the analysis above I find it perfectly justified. It is not rare that deca/heptathletes excel at some individual event.

T. Hellebaut was olympic champion at high jump and world indoor champion of pentathlon the very same year, 2008. (Her ratio of pentathlon score 4877 over maximum personal best 5013 stands at 97 %).

N. Gomes won indoor world titles in both long jump in 2008 and pentathlon in 2004. In fact, had she decided to tackle the women's decathlon record she would have made it quite easily. A feasible 3.40 m in pole vault would have given her more than 700 points. Assuming that she could improve her 35.28 m in discus and performing at 95 % of her maximum she would have scored around 8500 points (the current record of A. Skujyté standing at 8366). Her ratio of pentathlon score 4759 over maximum personal best 5088 is only 93.5 % but one has to take into account that after 2004 she practically abandoned the combined events.

This year D. Schippers, 2013 world bronze medalist in heptathlon, was crowned world champion of 200 m.

But even more impressive is the perfomance of Klüft of 14.29 m in triple jump. I do not know of many deca/heptathlete-triple jumper specialists. Had Klüft jumped at her personal best in Beijing, at the 2008 Olympics, she would have made it to the final but, unfortunately, with a mere 13.97 m she did not make it past the qualifiers. And of course the most impressive of all was the incursion of Eaton into the 400 m hurdles. Not only did he manage to record an enviable 48.69 but he won the Diamond League 400 m hurdles race in Oslo, becoming thus the first ever decathlete to win an individual Diamond League event. As I was writing in my blog post ”what can't this guy do?”.