A hundred years ago, the world set out to discover its greatest athlete. This athlete is not in the NFL, the NBA, or on a champions soccer league. He's a track star, a decathlete, and his name is Ashton Eaton.
But before Bend's Ashton came dozens of others. The first Olympic decathlon -- "deca" being Greek for 10, started in Stockholm of 1912. Native American Jim Thorpe won the event.
Since then, other big-name champions have filled the record books, including Bruce Jenner, Bryan Clay and the most recent world record-holder, the Czech Republic's Roman Sebrle. That is, until last month, when Eaton smashed the decathlon record by 13 points.
The decathlon is made up of 10 events over two days. There are three throwing events: shot put, discuss and javelin, three jumping events: the long jump, high jump and pole vault, and four running events: the 100-meter, 400-meter, 110-meter hurdles and the 1,500.
Decathletes are scored according to time or distance, not placement on a set number scale for each event. The 10 scores are added together for an overall score. The winner is then given the well-deserved distinction of being called the "world's greatest athlete."
To put it into perspective, in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner won the gold medal, setting a world record of 8,634 points in the decathlon. Ashton scored 9,039 points, 405 points higher than his gold medal score.
Looking forward to his next big stage, the 2012 Olympics, Ashton is being called "the one to beat." But his former coaches say even the world's greatest athlete has some good competition.
"Trey Hardee is still legit," said Tate Metcalf, Ashton's former coach at Bend's Mountain View High School. "He's a two-time world champ and he's still the man, crazy fit, so Trey absolutely."
German Pascal Benrenbruch just won the European league and is one of Ashton's biggest threats. And Cuban Hans van Alphen, who Ashton faced off against during the world championships, is also predicted to put up some high scores.
Ashton's weakest events are the throwing events. But what he lacks in strength, he makes up in pure speed.
"If he gets 750 points in the throwing events, that's okay," Metcalf explained. "Because he's getting a thousand points in each of the running events, the other guys don't have the power and speed.
"They'll never be able to run a 10:21, just like Ashton will never be able to throw 60 feet in the shot put. He just plays to his strengths."
Strengths that came unexpectedly soon.
"To be honest, going back to his age, I was looking at 2016 in Brazil as Ashton's year," Metcalf said. "But to happen four years earlier and to be at this level, just didn't expect it this soon."
"A lot of people have asked me if I think he'll reset the world records at the Olympics, and I absolutely say no. Because you don't set world records in the decathlon at the Olympics -- it just doesn't happen," Metcalf said. "But as I say that, Ashton has proven me wrong in other areas."
Ashton and his coaches agree on one thing: He's far from the only one fighting to bring home the gold. And while all the contenders are vying for Olympic immortality, their main focus isn't on each other, but on a clock and a tape measure.
"I've been in multiple races where there was a score I needed to get to break a record, for example," Eaton said, "and the other decathletes weren't saying, 'Okay, we are going to run the hell out of this so Ashton doesn't do it.' They'd say, 'Hey, follow me and you'll get the record.' So that kind of thing really helps."
Metcalf said, "I think that's one of the reasons why he's so great at the decathlon. There's a real brotherhood there. He's not beating the other guys, per se, he's just trying to do the best that he can. And in that same vain, he hopes that the other guys have great days -- he wants everyone to have a great day."
The opening ceremonies are Friday at 7:30 p.m. on NewsChannel 21. You can watch Ashton go for the gold during the decathlon events , which start Wednesday, August 8th at 10 a.m. The second day of events starts at 9 a.m. on August 9th.