Saturday evening junior Curtis Beach lined up for the final event of the decathlon, the 1500m race, knowing he was too far behind in the competition to qualify for the Olympic Team, even if he could break his personal record of 3:59.12. Next to him on the line was Ashton Eaton, who, if he could finish with a time of 4:16.37, would become the world record holder in the multi-event competition. Eaton, though, had never before run faster than 4:18.94 and so would have to break his personal record in order to break the world record.
Before the race, Beach approached Eaton and asked if Eaton wanted him to help keep him on pace for the world-record breaking time, but Eaton declined his offer. With about 600m to go, however, Eaton was a couple seconds off pace, while Beach and another competitor, Joe Detmer, were out in front.
Then, as the fans at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. cheered Eaton on, Detmer and Beach did something that showed true sportsmanship and class--they slowed down and moved out of the way so that Eaton would have a clear shot at the win. Eaton crossed the line in 4:14.48, with almost two seconds to spare, and was immediately overcome with joy.
Beach joined him in that reaction, crossing the finish line in third with his hands in the air and a grin on his face. Although the Blue Devil finished in 11th and so was unable to reach his Olympic dream this time around, his ability to genuinely celebrate his countryman’s success allowed him to end his time at the Trials on a high note.
Below is a video from letsrun.com speaking to Beach after the race about the decathlon and his experience with Eaton: