Ashton Eaton said that he was prepared to wind up in the hospital Thursday night, if that’s how hard he had to run to stop France’s Kevin Mayer from finishing more than seven seconds in front of him — thus, denying Eaton the gold medal — in the tenth and final event of the Decathlon at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the 1,500 meters.
Turns out, Eaton took the top spot on the podium, with no ambulance required.
With 300 meters left, the defending champ from 2012’s London games surged mightily from midpack, whizzing past Mayer and leaving no doubt about his fate. The fact that the Decathlon’s 10 disparate legs are packed into a two-day schedule made Eaton’s accomplishment all the more impressive. “There he is — that’s the heart of a champion,” declared commentator Tom Hammond, in a moment of understatement, as the American athlete made his winning move.
Mayer wound up in second in the overall Decathlon standings, while Canada’s Damian Warner edged Germany’s Kai Kazmirek for the bronze.
Here are some other buzzed-about moments from Day 13 of the Rio games:
* The American women’s 4 x 100 meter relay team strolling out on a completely empty track in a semifinal do-over. After interference by a Brazilian team member in their initial attempt thwarted Allyson Felix’s baton handoff to English Gardner, the Olympic committee disqualified the offending team and gave the U.S. a chance to qualify on raw time alone. Kicked off by Tianna Bartoletta and anchored by Morolake Akinosun, the formidable Americans easily made Friday’s final round. Who knew a race against no one could be so thrilling?
* Jamaica’s Usain Bolt taking home his third consecutive gold medal in the men’s 200 meter — his facile win looking like a foregone conclusion two or three strides into the race.
* China’s 15-year-old phenom Ren Qian putting on an astonishing show in the women’s platform diving finals, taking gold over countrywoman Si Yajie while splashing less water than I do during a single tooth-brushing session.
* We’re not mentioning coverage of the scandal starring the dude that yelled “Jeah!” on his short-lived reality series, are we?
* Americans Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs snagging gold and silver in the men’s shot put, the former setting an Olympic record in the process.
* Dalilah Muhammad of the United States smoking her competitors and winning the 400 meter hurdles — an accomplishment that seemed especially crazy after NBC commentators noted she’d put “no pressure on herself” in her approach to the Rio games.
* Kerron Clement flashing a toothpaste-endorsement-level smile after grabbing gold for the U.S. in the men’s 400-meter hurdles. #swoon
What was your favorite moment of this day of Olympic competition? What are you most looking forward to in the games? Let us know in the comments!