Ashton Eaton in the heptathlon pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)
From London to Beijing, from Istanbul to Sopot, whether it be indoor, outdoor, world or Olympic finals, Ashton Eaton has swept all before him over the past four years. Now, finally, he gets the chance to showcase his supremacy back on home soil.
Though the world record-holder will face 10 competitors in Portland, in truth, an athlete of Eaton’s brilliance can only be beaten by himself, and if he produces anything close to his performances from the previous two editions of this event, then he will take a third successive world indoor title with ease.
Four years ago, Eaton set the current indoor heptathlon world record of 6645 when taking gold in Istanbul, and he was equally imperious in 2014 in Sopot when recording a tally of 6632 – the second-best mark in history – to successfully defend his title. Though combined events form is difficult to assess before a major championship, there are signs Eaton is on course for another show-stopping performance in Portland.
He equalled his pole vault personal best in Boston last month when clearing 5.40m, and impressed over 60m hurdles a week later in New York, running 7.53 to finish second. Last weekend at the US Indoor Championships, he finished eighth in his heat of the men's 60m in 6.80, and was struck in the head by a falling pole shortly after. However after some stitches and bandaging were applied, Eaton emerged for the long jump and finished sixth with a best of 7.60m.
If Eaton is approaching his world record tally come the final 1000m event on Saturday, then prepare for a suitably deafening climax to the evening’s action as 7000 fans try to cheer Portland’s favourite son to another historic moment.
His biggest threat for the title may come from teammate Curtis Beach, who is a two-time NCAA indoor champion and won the national combined events championship last month with 6075. Ukraine’s Oleksiy Kasyanov was a world indoor silver medallist in 2012, but comes to Portland with a season’s best of just 5979, well off his best of 6254.
Spain’s Jorge Urena has had a breakthrough indoor season, setting a national record of 6076 points when taking victory in Reims in January. Germany’s Mathias Brugger has also surpassed the 6000-point barrier this year, and should be a medal prospect for the proud combined events nation, while his younger teammate Tim Nowak – a bronze medallist at the IAAF World Junior Championships Eugene 2014 – will be looking to make an impact in his first major championship as a senior.
Algeria’s Larbi Bourrada was originally set to compete but recently withdrew due to injury.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF