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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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.[1] The decathlon is contested mainly 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.[2] 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 strength, speed, 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.

Day 1
Day 2


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 become part of religious games.[3]

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 Amateur Athletic Union held "all around events" from the 1880s.[3] One was held at the 1904 Olympic Games.[3]

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, although neither was ratified as a world record; that would have to wait until 1922, when Aleksander Klumberg-Kolmpere of Estonia was declared the first official record-holder for a performance in 1920.

The decathlon was added to the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm[4]. 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.

Traditionally, all decathletes who finished the event do a round of honour together after the competition.


Points system

The 2001 IAAF points tables use the following formulae:[5]

  • 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, measured in seconds (running), metres (throwing), or centimetres (jumping).[5]

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

The decathlon tables should not be confused with the scoring tables compiled by Bojidar Spiriev, to allow comparison of the relative quality of performances by athletes in different events. On those tables, for example, a decathlon score of 9006 points equates to 1265 "comparison points", the same number as a triple jump of 18.00 m.[6]


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 7.76 7.36 6.94.1 6.51 Meters
Shot Put 18.4 16.79 15.16 13.53 Meters
High Jump 2.20 2.10 1.99 1.88 Meters
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 5.28 4.96 4.63 4.29 Meters
Javelin Throw 77.19 70.67 64.09 57.45 Meters
1500m 233.79 247.42 261.77 276.96 Seconds

The total decathlon score for all world records in the respective events would be 12,545. The total decathlon score for all the best performances achieved during decathlons is 10,485.

World records (WR) compared to Decathlon bests (DB)
Event WR–World record/
DB–Decathlon best
Athlete Record Score Difference
WR Usain Bolt 9.58 s 1203
DB Chris Huffins 10.22 s 1042 −161
Long Jump
WR Mike Powell 8.95 m 1312
DB Erki Nool 8.22 m 1117 −195
Shot Put
WR Randy Barnes 23.12 m 1295
DB Edy Hubacher 19.17 m 1048 −247
High Jump
WR Javier Sotomayor 2.45 m 1244
DB Rolf Beilschmidt &
Christian Schenk
2.27 m 1061 −183
WR Michael Johnson 43.18 s 1156
DB Bill Toomey 45.68 s 1025 −131
110m Hurdles
WR Dayron Robles 12.87 s 1126
DB Frank Busemann 13.47 s 1044 −82
Discus Throw
WR Jürgen Schult 74.08 m 1383
DB Bryan Clay 55.87 m 993 −390
Pole Vault
WR Sergey Bubka 6.14 m 1277
DB Tim Lobinger 5.76 m 1152 −125
Javelin Throw
WR Jan Železný 98.48 m 1331
DB Peter Blank 79.80 m 1040 −291
WR Hicham El Guerrouj 3 m 26.00 s 1218
DB Robert Baker 3 m 58.70 s 963 −255
Total World record 12545
Decathlon 10485

Women's decathlon

At major championships, the women's equivalent of the decathlon is the seven-event heptathlon; prior to 1980 it was the five-event pentathlon.[7] However, in 2001 the IAAF approved scoring tables for women's decathlon; the current world record holder is Austra Skujytė of Lithuania.[8] Women's disciplines differ from men's in the same way as for standalone events: the shot, discus and javelin weigh less, and the sprint hurdles uses lower hurdles over 100 m rather than 110 m. The points tables used are the same as for the heptathlon in the shared events. The schedule of events differs from the men's decathlon, with the field events switched between day one and day two; this is to avoid scheduling conflicts when men's and women's decathlon competitions take place simultaneously.[9]

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.[10]

World records

The first world record in the men's decathlon was recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 1922.[11]

As of June 21, 2009, 35 world records have been ratified by the IAAF in the event.[11] The first score in the following table indicates the score using the tables in use at the time, the second score is based on tables currently in use.

Points Adjusted
Athlete Nation Date Place
7485.61 6087 Aleksander Klumberg-Kolmpere  EST 1922-09-22 Helsinki[11]
7710.775 6476 Harold Osborn  USA 1924-07-12 Paris[11]
7820.93 6460 Paavo Yrjölä  FIN 1926-07-18 Viipuri[11]
7995.19 6566 Paavo Yrjölä  FIN 1927-07-17 Helsinki[11]
8053.29 6587 Paavo Yrjölä  FIN 1928-08-04 Amsterdam[11]
8255.475 6087 Akilles Järvinen  FIN 1930-07-20 Viipuri[11]
8462.235 6736 James Bausch  US 1932-08-06 Los Angeles[11]
8790.46 7147 Hans-Heinrich Sievert  GER 1934-07-08 Hamburg[11]
7900 7254 Glenn Morris  USA 1936-08-08 Berlin[11]
8042 7287 Bob Mathias  USA 1950-06-30 Tulare[11]
7887 7592 Bob Mathias  USA 1952-07-26 Helsinki[11]
7985 7608 Rafer Johnson  USA 1955-06-11 Kingsburg[11]
8014 7653 Vasili Kuznetsov  URS 1958-05-18 Krasnodar[11]
8302 7989 Rafer Johnson  USA 1958-07-28 Moscow[11]
8357 7839 Vasili Kuznetsov  URS 1959-05-17 Moscow[11]
8683 7981 Rafer Johnson  USA 1960-07-09 Eugene[11]
9121 8010 Yang Chuan-Kwang  ROC 1963-04-28 Walnut[11]
8230 8120 Russ Hodge  USA 1966-07-24 Los Angeles[11]
8319 8235 Kurt Bendlin  FRG 1967-05-14 Heidelberg[11]
8417 8310 Bill Toomey  USA 1969-12-11 Los Angeles[11]
8454 8466 Nikolay Avilov  URS 1972-09-08 Munich[11]
8524 8420 Bruce Jenner  USA 1975-08-10 Eugene[11]
8538 8454 Bruce Jenner  USA 1976-06-26 Eugene[11]
8618 8634 Bruce Jenner  USA 1976-07-30 Montreal[11]
8622 8648 Daley Thompson  GBR 1980-05-15 Götzis[11]
8649 8667 Guido Kratschmer  FRG 1980-06-14 Filderstadt-Bernhausen[11]
8704 8730 Daley Thompson  GBR 1982-05-23 Götzis[11]
8723 8741 Jürgen Hingsen  FRG 1982-08-15 Ulm[11]
8743 8774 Daley Thompson  GBR 1982-09-08 Athens[11]
8779 8825 Jürgen Hingsen  FRG 1983-06-05[12] Filderstadt-Bernhausen[11]
8798 8832 Jürgen Hingsen  FRG 1984-05-09 Mannheim[11]
8798 8847 Daley Thompson  GBR 1984-08-09 Los Angeles[11]
8891 8891 Dan O'Brien  USA 1992-09-05 Talence[11]
8994 8994 Tomáš Dvořák  CZE 1999-07-04 Prague[11]
9026 9026 Roman Šebrle  CZE 2001-05-27 Götzis[11]

The first world record in the women's decathlon was recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 2004.[13]

As of June 21, 2009, 2 world records have been ratified by the IAAF in the event.[13]

Points Athlete Nation Date Place
8150 Marie Collonvillé  FRA 2004-09-26 Talence[13]
8366 Austra Skujytė  LTU 2005-04-15 Columbia, Missouri[13]

NOTE: Skujyte's marks total 6333 using the men's scoring tables

National records

  • As of September 2, 2009.
9026  CZE Roman Šebrle 2001-04-27 Götzis
8891  USA Dan O'Brien 1992-09-05 Talence
8847  GBR Daley Thompson 1984-08-09 Los Angeles
8832  GER Jürgen Hingsen 1984-06-09 Mannheim
8815  EST Erki Nool 2001-08-07 Edmonton
8735  BLR Eduard Hämäläinen 1994-05-29 Götzis
8730  FIN Eduard Hämäläinen 1997-08-06 Athens
8725  KAZ Dmitriy Karpov 2004-08-24 Athens
8709  UKR Aleksander Apaichev 1984-06-03 Neubrandenburg
8698  RUS Grigori Degtyaryov 1984-06-22 Kiev
8654  CUB Leonel Suárez 2009-07-04 Havana
8644  JAM Maurice Smith 2007-09-01 Osaka
8626  CAN Mike Smith 1996-05-26 Götzis
8574  FRA Christian Plaziat 1990-08-29 Split
8573  ISL Jón Arnar Magnússon 1998-05-31 Götzis
8566  POL Sebastian Chmara 1998-05-17 Murcia
8554  HUN Attila Zsivóczky 2000-06-04 Götzis
8526  ESP Francisco Javier Benet 1998-05-17 Murcia
8490  AUS Jagan Hames 1998-09-18 Kuala Lumpur
8447  NED Robert de Wit 1988-05-22 Eindhoven
8445  UZB Ramil Ganiyev 1997-08-06 Athens
8437  LTU Ryszard Malachowskis 1988-07-02 Staiki
8406  SWE Nicklas Wiberg 2009-08-20 Berlin
8359  NZL Simon Poelman 1987-03-22 Christchurch
8334  SUI Stephan Niklaus 1983-07-03 Lausanne
8320  AUT Gernot Kellermayr 1993-05-30 Götzis
8291  ARG Tito Steiner 1983-06-23 Provo, Utah
8290  CHN Qi Haifeng 2005-05-29 Götzis
8288  MDA Valeri Kachanov 1980-06-21 Moscow
8271  LAT Janis Karlivans 2007-05-27 Götzis
8266  BRA Pedro da Silva Filho 1987-04-23 Walnut, California
8213  POR Mario Anibal Ramos 2001-07-01 Kaunas
8206  ROC Yang Chuan-Kwang 1963-04-28 Walnut, California
8199  BUL Atanas Andonov 1981-06-21 Sofia
8171  ALG Larbi Bouraada 2009-08-20 Berlin
8169  ITA Beniamino Poserina 1996-10-06 Formia
8160  NOR Benjamin Jensen 1999-08-01 Greve
8146  RSA Willem Coertzen 2009-08-20 Berlin
8142  BEL Frédéric Xhonneux 2008-05-11 Desenzano del Garda
8069  GRE Prodromos Korkizoglou 2000-07-02 Ibach
8057  YUG Saša Karan 1990-07-01 Ljubljana
8023  TUN Hamdi Dhouibi 2005-08-10 Helsinki
7995  JPN Munehiro Kaneko 1993-05-14 Shanghai
7994  DEN Lars Warming 1988-06-19 Götzis
7882  IRL Carlos O'Connell 1988-06-05 Emmitsburg, Maryland
7846  TJK Igor Sobolevski 1982-07-16 Leningrad
7843  ROM Vasile Bogdan 1975-06-07 Paris
7824  KOR Kim Kun-Woo 2006-05-26 Gongju
7802  CYP Yeorgios Andreou 2000-08-12 Volos
7799  SVK Peter Soldos 2001-06-10 Arles
7777  BAR Victor Houston 1997-08-06 Athens
7757  TUR Alper Kasapoğlu 1996-04-19 Azusa, California
7756  GEO Juri Dyachkov 1968-06-16 Tbilisi
7734  VEN Douglas Fernández 1983-08-27 Caracas
7730  QAT Ahmad Hassan Moussa 2004-06-27 Ratingen
7711  IRI Hadi Sepehrzad 2008-07-21 Tehran
7704  PUR Luiggy Llanos 2003-08-06 Santo Domingo
7698  SLO Damjan Sitar 2006-05-28 Maribor
7659  CRO Joško Vlašić 1983-06-25 Izmir
7632  LCA Dominic Johnson 1998-03-27 Tucson
7614  MEX Alejandro Cárdenas 1996-05-11 Medellín

Season's best

2009 8790   Trey Hardee (USA) Berlin
2008 8832  Bryan Clay (USA) Eugene
2007 8697  Roman Šebrle (CZE) Kladno
2006 8677  Bryan Clay (USA) Götzis
2005 8732  Bryan Clay (USA) Helsinki
2004 8893  Roman Šebrle (CZE) Athens
2003 8807  Roman Šebrle (CZE) Götzis
2002 8800  Roman Šebrle (CZE) Götzis
2001 9026  Roman Šebrle (CZE) Götzis
2000 8900  Tomáš Dvořák (CZE) Götzis
1999 8994  Tomáš Dvořák (CZE) Prague
1998 8755  Dan O'Brien (USA) Uniondale
1997 8837  Tomáš Dvořák (CZE) Athens
1996 8824  Dan O'Brien (USA) Atlanta
1995 8695  Dan O'Brien (USA) Göteborg
1994 8735  Eduard Hämäläinen (BLR) Götzis
1993 8817  Dan O'Brien (USA) Stuttgart
1992 8891  Dan O'Brien (USA) Talence
1991 8812  Dan O'Brien (USA) Tokyo
1990 8574  Christian Plaziat (FRA) Split (city)
1989 8549  Dave Johnson (USA) Houston
1988 8512  Christian Plaziat (FRA) Talence
1987 8680  Torsten Voss (GDR) Rome
1986 8811  Daley Thompson (GBR) Stuttgart
1985 8559  Torsten Voss (GDR) Dresden
1984 8847  Daley Thompson (GBR) Los Angeles
1983 8825  Jürgen Hingsen (FRG) Bernhausen
1982 8774  Daley Thompson (GBR) Athens
1981 8334  Rainer Pottel (GDR) Birmingham
1980 8667  Guido Kratschmer (FRG) Bernhausen
1979 8476  Guido Kratschmer (FRG) Krefeld
1978 8493  Guido Kratschmer (FRG) Bernhausen
1977 8400  Aleksandr Grebenyuk (URS) Riga
1976 8634  Bruce Jenner (USA) Montreal
1975 8429  Bruce Jenner (USA) Eugene
1974 8229  Ryszard Skowronek (POL) Montreal
1973 8163  Lennart Hedmark (SWE) Bonn
1972 8466  Nikolay Avilov (URS) Munich

See also

Other multiple event contests


  1. ^ "Decathlon". Encarta. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06.  
  2. ^ World's Greatest Athlete
  3. ^ a b c IAAF Scoring Tables for Combined Events, p.7
  4. ^ "Decathlon". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06.  
  5. ^ a b IAAF Scoring Tables for Combined Events, p.24
  6. ^ IAAF Scoring Tables of Athletics - Outdoor - 2008 Edition p.154
  7. ^ IAAF Scoring Tables for Combined Events, p.9
  8. ^ "Decathlon Records". IAAF. Retrieved 2009-05-09.  
  9. ^ IAAF Scoring Tables for Combined Events, p.10
  10. ^ "Decathlon Records". DECA - The Decathlon Association. Retrieved 2007-10-21.  
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009." (pdf). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. Pages 546, 559-60. Retrieved August 12, 2009.  
  12. ^ The IAAF record progression lists lists this date as 1984-06-05 but their all-time list says 1983.[1]
  13. ^ a b c d "12th IAAF World Championships In Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009." (pdf). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. Pages 546, 649. Retrieved August 12, 2009.  

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