losing speed


The decathlon is an athletic event consisting of ten track and field events. Events are held over two consecutive days and the winners are determined by the combined performance in all. Performance is judged on a points system in each event, not by the position achieved. The decathlon is contested by male athletes, while female athletes contest the heptathlon.

Traditionally, the title of "World's Greatest Athlete" has been given to the man who wins the decathlon. This began when King Gustav V of Sweden told Jim Thorpe, "You, sir, are the World's Greatest Athlete" after Thorpe won the decathlon at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. The current holder of the title is American Bryan Clay, the gold medal winner of the event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, who took the title from Athens Olympics champion Roman Šebrle.

The word decathlon is of Greek origin (from δέκα deka [ten] and αθλος athlos [contest]).


The modern event is a set combination of athletic disciplines, testing an individual’s speed, strength, skill, stamina, endurance, and perseverance; it includes five events on each of two successive days. The emphasis of the first day is on speed, explosive power, and jumping ability; the second emphasizes technique and endurance.


The event developed from the ancient pentathlon. Pentathlon competitions were held at the ancient Greek Olympics. Pentathlons involved five disciplines – long jump, discus throw, javelin, sprint and a wrestling match. Introduced in Olympia during 708 BC, the game was extremely popular for many centuries. By the sixth century BC, pentathlons had became part of religious games. Gorgos, from Elis, a town near Olympia, was a four-time pentathlon winner during the period. Another key player was Lampis, a young Spartan who was the first Olympic winner. Automedes was also a known player of the time. The last recorded game winner was Publius Asklepiades of Corinth in AD 241. Roman Emperor Theodosius I officially put an end to the game in AD 393 by closing down all the sanctuaries including Olympia. From the mid 1700s various versions of the competition emerged. The 1948 Olympics endorsed a new implication to the game. Seventeen-year-old Bob Mathias emerged as the then decathlon winner, banishing the myth that decathlon was a game for the old and the experienced. Mathias still remains the youngest decathlon sports champion in Olympic history.

Modern standardization

In 1964 the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF; now the International Association of Athletics Federations) laid out new scoring tables and brought about some standardization in the sport. The 1970s saw the game spreading to the Eastern European nations, mainly the Soviet Union, Poland and East Germany.

The first decathlon competition was held in just one single day, October 15 1911, in Gothenburg, Sweden. This was technically not the first decathlon, but one of the first two, as Germany also held a decathlon on the very same day. The Germans contested their events in the same order but with a different scoring table to the one in Sweden. So, the first decathlon world-record holder was the winner of the first completed meet. Karl Hugo Wieslander, a Swede, and Karl Ritter von Halt, a German, were announced world-record holders. The decathlon was added to the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. After experience, the following order was chosen: 100 m run, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400 m run on the first day; 110 m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1500 m run on the 2nd day. The Swedes also developed a set of scoring tables, based on the 1908 Olympic records. After the 1912 Stockholm Games, the tables were updated to include many new Olympic records. The 1912 Olympic decathlon has become legend because of the presence of Jim Thorpe. Thorpe had a terrific 1912 spring track season, winning as many as six events per meet. Thorpe made the U.S. Olympic team in four events: decathlon, pentathlon, high jump, and long jump. The Russian czar donated a Viking ship as a prize for the decathlon champion. Thorpe won the decathlon by almost 700 points over his closest opponent, Hugo Wieslander of Sweden. Because of the unexpected large number of entries, the decathlon was held over 3 days. The first day they held the 100 m run, long jump, and shot put. The second day consisted of the high jump, 400 m run, discus, and 110 m hurdles. The third and final day consisted of the pole vault, javelin, and 1500 m run. Thorpe’s 8412 points converts to 6564 points on the current tables, still a very respectable score three quarters of a century later. Swedes Wieslander, Charles Lomberg, and Gösta Holmér captured the next three spots. Thorpe’s score was not beaten for another 15 years. In his absence, there was little decathlon activity for the remainder of the decade. Only in Sweden was the decathlon often contested. The Swedes managed to stay neutral during World War I, which forced the cancellation of the games of Berlin in 1916. Fascinatingly, decathlons were held as part of the Far Eastern Games in 1913, 1915, 1917, and 1919. The average good decathlete competes at most three or four times a year, the less talented even fewer. Bill Toomey’s nine great efforts back in 1969 were very unusual. The decathlon is the Olympic event least commonly seen in non-Olympic meets. The decathlete does not have to be amazing in all events to be a champion in the sport itself. But he must range from adequate in his weak events to good or better in the other skills. Because he must do well in the four runs and six field events, he has little opportunity to perfect any one event. A decathlete trying to improve performance in one specific event is likely to deteriorate in another, because the physical demands of the various events are conflicting. His training is necessarily different as he strives to improve all techniques, gain strength without losing speed, and acquire the stamina to perform through a competition that lasts anywhere from 4 to 12 hours per day during the Olympics. As a reference point, a performance in the (non-decathlon) world record class would give somewhere between 1100 and 1400 points per event, totaling over 12500 points for a full record-breaking decathlon. When compared to the 6-7000 points that a good decathlete would usually get, or the world record of slightly over 9000 points, this illustrates how much specialization must be sacrificed to become a good all-round athlete. The decathlon is one of the few events with an arbitrary scoring system and thus the only one in which personal performance and records can be broken as new scoring tables are adopted. Under the original scoring tables adopted in 1912, Akilles Järvinen of Finland finished second in both the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, but the new scoring system introduced in 1934 gave Jarvinen higher converted totals than both the men he lost to. World-record holder C.K. Yang lost 1032 points when his 1963 performance was converted late in 1964 to the new tables first used in the 1964 Olympics. His top rivals lost only 287 and 172 points when their bests were converted, and Yang dropped from the favorite to third on the pre-Games ranking, finishing a disappointing fifth. The arbitrary nature of the scoring tables can work in the opposite direction as well. In 1984, at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, Great Britain’s Daley Thompson missed the world record by one point on then-used 1962/77 tables. The tables were changed a year later and Thompson’s score in Los Angeles converted to a best-ever mark.

Points system

Points are given to the following formulae used by the IAAF:

  • Points = INT(A*(B-P)C) for track events
  • Points = INT(A*(P-B)C) for field events

A, B and C are parameters that vary by discipline, as shown in the table below, while P is the performance by the athlete in units given in the final column of the table.

Event A B C Units
100 m 25.4347 18 1.81 seconds
Long Jump 0.14354 220 1.4 centimeters
Shot Put 51.39 1.5 1.05 meters
High Jump 0.8465 75 1.42 centimeters
400 m 1.53775 82 1.81 seconds
110 m Hurdles 5.74352 28.5 1.92 seconds
Discus Throw 12.91 4 1.1 meters
Pole Vault 0.2797 100 1.35 centimeters
Javelin Throw 10.14 7 1.08 meters
1500 m 0.03768 480 1.85 seconds


Split evenly between the events, the following table shows the benchmark levels needed to earn 1000, 900, 800, and 700 points in each sport.

Event 1000 pts 900 pts 800 pts 700 pts Units
100m 10.395 10.827 11.278 11.756 seconds
Long Jump 776 736 694.1 651 centimeters
Shot Put 18.4 16.79 15.16 13.53 meters
High Jump 220.8 210.4 199.6 188.4 centimeters
400m 46.17 48.19 50.32 52.58 seconds
110m Hurdles 13.8 14.59 15.419 16.29 seconds
Discus Throw 56.17 51.4 46.59 41.72 meters
Pole Vault 528.7 496.5 463.4 429.2 centimeters
Javelin Throw 77.19 70.67 64.09 57.45 meters
1500m 233.79 247.42 261.77 276.96 seconds

Using the most current world records, the present theoretical maximum score in the decathlon is 12,516.

Event Record-holder Record Score
100m Usain Bolt 9.69 seconds 1174
Long Jump Mike Powell 895 centimeters 1312
Shot Put Randy Barnes 23.12 meters 1295
High Jump Javier Sotomayor 245 centimeters 1244
400m Michael Johnson 43.18 seconds 1156
110m Hurdles Dayron Robles 12.87 seconds 1126
Discus Throw Jürgen Schult 74.08 meters 1383
Pole Vault Sergey Bubka 614 centimeters 1277
Javelin Throw Jan Železný 98.48 meters 1331
1500m Hicham El Guerrouj 206 seconds 1218
Total 12516

Using the most current world decathlon bests, the present theoretical maximum score in the decathlon is 10,485.

Event Record-holder Record Score
100m Chris Huffins 10.22 seconds 1042
Long Jump Erki Nool 822 centimeters 1117
Shot Put Edy Hubacher 19.17 meters 1048
High Jump Rolf Beilschmidt & Christian Schenk 227 centimeters 1061
400m Bill Toomey 45.68 seconds 1025
110m Hurdles Frank Busemann 13.47 seconds 1044
Discus Throw Bryan Clay 55.87 meters 993
Pole Vault Tim Lobinger 576 centimeters 1152
Javelin Throw Peter Blank 79.80 meters 1040
1500m Robert Baker 238.7 seconds 963
Total 10485

One hour decathlon

One hour decathlon is a special type of decathlon, in which the athletes have to start the last of ten events (1500 m) within sixty minutes after the start of the first event. The world record holder is a Czech decathlete Robert Změlík, who achieved 7897 points at a meeting in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia in 1992.

World records

Points Athlete Nation Date Place
Since 1920
7485 Aleksander Klumberg-Kolmpere 1920-07-05 Tallinn
7710 Harold Osborn 1924-07-12 Paris
7820 Paavo Yrjölä 1926-07-18 Viipuri
7995 Paavo Yrjölä 1927-07-17 Helsinki
8053 Paavo Yrjölä 1928-08-04 Amsterdam
8255 Akilles Järvinen 1930-07-20 Viipuri
8462 James Bausch 1932-08-06 Los Angeles
8790 Hans-Heinrich Sievert 1934-07-08 Hamburg
Since 1936
7900 Glenn Morris 1936-08-08 Berlin
8042 Bob Mathias 1950-06-30 Tulare
Since 1952
7887 Bob Mathias 1952-07-26 Helsinki
7985 Rafer Johnson 1955-06-11 Kingsburg
8014 Vassily Kuznetsov 1958-05-18 Krasnodar
8302 Rafer Johnson 1958-07-28 Moscow
8357 Vassily Kuznetsov 1959-05-17 Moscow
8683 Rafer Johnson 1960-07-09 Eugene
Since 1962
8206 Yang Chuan-Kwang 1963-04-28 Walnut
8230 Russ Hodge 1966-07-24 Los Angeles
8319 Kurt Bendlin 1967-05-14 Heidelberg
8417 Bill Toomey 1969-12-11 Los Angeles
8454 Nikolay Avilov 1972-09-08 Munich
8524 Bruce Jenner 1975-08-10 Eugene
8538 Bruce Jenner 1976-06-26 Eugene
8618 Bruce Jenner 1976-07-30 Montreal
8622 Daley Thompson 1980-05-15 Götzis
8649 Guido Kratschmer 1980-06-14 Filderstadt-Bernhausen
8704 Daley Thompson 1982-05-23 Götzis
8723 Jürgen Hingsen 1982-08-15 Ulm
8743 Daley Thompson 1982-09-08 Athens
8779 Jürgen Hingsen 1983-06-06 Filderstadt-Bernhausen
8798 Jürgen Hingsen 1984-05-15 Mannheim
8847 Daley Thompson 1984-08-09 Los Angeles
Since 1985
8891 Dan O'Brien 1992-09-05 Talence
8994 Tomáš Dvořák 1999-07-04 Prague
9026 Roman Šebrle 2001-05-27 Götzis
Women's world record
8366 Austra Skujytė 2005-04-15 Columbia, Missouri
NOTE: Skujyte's marks total 6333 using the men's scoring tables

National records

9026 Roman Šebrle 2001-05-27 Götzis
8891 Dan O'Brien 1992-09-05 Talence
8847 Daley Thompson 1984-08-09 Los Angeles
8832 Jürgen Hingsen 1984-06-09 Mannheim
8815 Erki Nool 2001-08-07 Edmonton
8735 Eduard Hämäläinen 1994-05-29 Götzis
8730 Eduard Hämäläinen 1997-08-06 Athens
8725 Dmitriy Karpov 2004-08-24 Athens
8709 Aleksander Apaichev 1984-06-03 Neubrandenburg
8698 Grigori Degtyaryov 1984-06-22 Kiev
8644 Maurice Smith 2007-09-01 Osaka
8626 Mike Smith 1996-05-26 Götzis
8574 Christian Plaziat 1990-08-29 Split
8573 Jón Arnar Magnússon 1998-05-31 Götzis
8566 Sebastian Chmara 1998-05-17 Murcia
8554 Attila Zsivóczky 2000-06-04 Götzis
8526 Francisco Javier Benet 1998-05-17 Murcia
8490 Jagan Hames 1998-09-18 Kuala Lumpur
8447 Robert de Wit 1988-05-22 Eindhoven
8445 Ramil Ganiyev 1997-08-06 Athens
8437 Ryszard Malachowskis 1988-07-02 Staiki
8403 Henrik Dagård 1994-09-11 Talence
8359 Simon Poelman 1987-03-22 Christchurch
8334 Stephan Niklaus 1983-07-03 Lausanne
8320 Gernot Kellermayr 1993-05-30 Götzis
8291 Tito Steiner 1983-06-23 Provo
8290 Qi Haifeng 2005-05-29 Götzis
8288 Valeri Kachanov 1980-06-21 Moscow
8271 Janis Karlivans 2007-05-27 Götzis
8266 Pedro da Silva Filho 1987-04-23 Walnut, California
8257 Yordanis García 2007-09-01 Osaka
8213 Mario Anibal Ramos 2001-07-01 Kaunas
8199 Atanas Andonov 1981-06-21 Sofia
8169 Beniamino Poserina 1996-10-06 Formia
8160 Benjamin Jensen 1999-08-01 Greve
8069 Prodromos Korkizoglou 2000-07-02 Ibach
8057 Saša Karan 1990-07-01 Ljubljana
8047 Hans van Alphen 2007-08-13 Bangkok
8023 Hamdi Dhouibi 2005-08-10 Helsinki
8009 Yang Chuan-Kwang 1963-04-28 Walnut, California
7995 Munehiro Kaneko 1993-05-14 Shanghai
7994 Lars Warming 1988-06-19 Götzis
7934 Ahmed Mahour Bacha 1985-07-09 Algiers
7882 Carlos O'Connell 1988-06-05 Emmitsburg, Maryland
7846 Igor Sobolevski 1982-07-16 Leningrad
7834 Vasile Bogdan 1975-06-08 Paris
7824 Kim Kun-Woo 2006-05-26 Gongju
7802 Yeorgios Andreou 2000-08-12 Volos
7799 Peter Soldos 2001-06-10 Arles
7777 Victor Houston 1997-08-06 Athens
7757 Alper Kasapoğlu 1996-04-19 Azusa, California
7756 Juri Dyachkov 1968-06-16 Tbilisi
7734 Douglas Fernández 1983-08-27 Caracas
7730 Ahmad Hassan Moussa 2004-06-27 Ratingen
7704 Luiggy Llanos 2003-08-06 Santo Domingo
7698 Damjan Sitar 2006-05-28 Maribor
7674 Joepie Loots 1983-04-16 Bloemfontein
7667 Hadi Sepehrzad 2007-07-28 Amman
7659 Joško Vlašić 1983-06-25 Izmir
7632 Dominic Johnson 1998-03-27 Tucson
7614 Alejandro Cárdenas 1996-05-11 Medellín

Season's best

2007 8697 Kladno
2006 8677 Götzis
2005 8732 Helsinki
2004 8893 Athens
2003 8807 Götzis
2002 8800 Götzis
2001 9026 Götzis
2000 8900 Götzis
1999 8994 Prague
1998 8755 Uniondale
1997 8837 Athens
1996 8824 Atlanta
1995 8695 Göteborg
1994 8735 Götzis
1993 8817 Stuttgart
1992 8891 Talence
1991 8812 Tokyo
1990 8574 Split
1989 8549 Houston
1988 8512 Talence
1987 8680 Rome
1986 8811 Stuttgart
1985 8559 Dresden
1984 8847 Los Angeles
1983 8825 Bernhausen
1982 8774 Athens
1981 8334 Birmingham
1980 8667 Bernhausen
1979 8476 Krefeld
1978 8493 Bernhausen
1977 8400 Riga
1976 8634 Montreal
1975 8429 Eugene
1974 8229 Montreal
1973 8163 Bonn
1972 8466 Munich

See also

Other multiple event contests


External links

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