So impressive was Eaton’s performance that Dan O’Brien, the 1996 Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, called it the “finest day in decathlon history.”
“The great thing about this is — not to pump my own tires or anything — I feel like I have not maximized yet,” Eaton said. “I feel like I can still run faster, jump higher.”
Eaton’s final numbers certainly raised expectations for the London Games. But the bigger surprise in the opening days of these trials was found near the bottom of the decathlon standings.
Bryan Clay still is considered one of the world’s best, but he won’t be competing in a third Olympics after his 12th-place finish Saturday, which included a disastrous showing in the 110-meter hurdles.
Clay, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, was in third place through five events but began Saturday morning by hitting hurdles Nos. 8, 9 and 10. He was initially disqualified, a decision that was overturned later, but three fouls in the discus formally ended any hopes for London.
“The whole time throwing discus, my mind just wasn’t there,” Clay said.
Several other athletes earned their tickets to the Summer Games on Saturday evening, but at least two left Hayward Field with their Olympic hopes still very much up in the air.
In the women’s 100 meters, Carmelita Jeter won with an impressive 10.92-second finish, followed by Tianna Madison (10.96) and then Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix, who finished in a dead-heat tie with a time of 11.068.
Tarmoh was initially named the third-place finisher, one-thousandth of a second ahead of Felix, and was introduced at a post-race news conference as London-bound.
She expressed excitement to reporters, while Felix struggled to swallow the result. “It’s the worst,” Felix had said. “Just disappointed.”
But an hour later, officials with U.S.A. Track and Field said a photo review showed the two sprinters appeared to cross the line at the same time. Officials said there is no formal procedure in place to break the tie, and it wasn’t immediately clear Saturday night which of the two would go to London. Only three Americans can race in the 100 meters at the Summer Games.
It was a murky conclusion to a gray, rainy Eugene day. Emotions washed over winners and losers alike.
While the track trials crowns Olympians and validates years of hard work for a select few, many others leave historic Hayward Field with only disappointment.
Dawn Harper will aim for a second Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles after topping the field with a time of 12.73 seconds. She will be joined by second-place finisher Kellie Wells (12.77) and crowd favorite Lolo Jones (12.86), who made the team by just four-hundredths of a second.