Ashton Eaton
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Caitlyn Jenner’s message to Ashton Eaton after decathlon world record

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — One day in September, Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton found his phone and noticed a missed call and voicemail from a number he didn’t recognize.

He listened.

“Hey, this is Caitlyn,” the message began.

Caitlyn Jenner, who won the 1976 Olympic decathlon title as Bruce Jenner, called again shortly thereafter and this time did reach Eaton.

Less than a month earlier, Eaton repeated as World champion and broke the decathlon world record in Beijing. Also at Worlds, Eaton’s wife, Canadian Olympian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, earned her second straight silver in the heptathlon.

That’s why Jenner called, twice.

“She just said, ‘You know what, I just wanted to say congrats on the Worlds to both you and Brianne,’ which was very cool, and, ‘I thought you guys did great,'” Eaton recalled Monday.

Eaton couldn’t remember the last time he and Jenner, two of six living U.S. Olympic decathlon champions, had spoken. Though they are on good terms.

They also talked leading up to the 2012 Olympics, and Eaton believed more recently, but not since Jenner’s Diane Sawyer interview and Vanity Fair cover story last spring.

Eaton’s coach, Harry Marra, said Jenner called him a few hours after Eaton completed his two-day, record-breaking decathlon performance in Beijing.

“She woke me up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Marra told CBS Albany in New York, near his hometown, last month. “‘Hey, I saw Ashton won, tell me about it.’ Decathon guys, people stay together. It’s a fraternity.

“Caitlyn and I have known each other since 1971, still remain friends, talk quite often.”

Jenner was the last decathlete to break the world record outright at the Olympics in 1976.

In 1984, Daley Thompson repeated as Olympic decathlon champion with a score that would later be fixed to tie the world record, then become the world record when a new scoring table was implemented in 1985.

Back to that September phone call. Jenner joked after the congratulations.

“The only thing is, you fell down at the end of the 1500 [meters],” she joked, according to Eaton. “She was like, ‘You’ve got to be tough. The U.S. never falls down at the end of the 15.'”

Eaton was so drained by the end of the 1500m, the 10th and final event, that he tumbled to the ground two steps after crossing the finish line in 4:17.52. He knew before the race that he needed 4:18.25 to break his world record.

The time was well off the 4:14.48 he clocked to cap a world record for the first time at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., attended by Jenner. Eaton did not fall then.

But Eaton competed in Beijing under tougher circumstances than in Eugene, the pressure of a global championship, his first decathlon in nearly two years and in warmer weather.

He had trouble holding up an American flag on his victory lap at the 2008 Olympic Stadium.

“I was waving at people, and just raising my arm, it was going lactic,” Eaton said. “It was the weirdest thing.”

Eaton said he had fallen after a decathlon 1500m once before, at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“Trials was different,” Eaton said. “I couldn’t go any faster, but I had more energy, if that makes sense. I didn’t expend it all. I just couldn’t go any faster. Whereas in something like Daegu and Beijing, I think because the days are so long, I’m using every last bit just to stay up.”

In Daegu, Eaton was also chasing a time. He needed to beat Cuban Leonel Suarez by about five seconds to overtake Suarez for the silver medal behind American Trey Hardee.

Eaton ended up beating Suarez by 5.22 seconds in a then-personal-best time and, after 10 events, four points in the standings.

At Daegu in 2011, Eaton took several steps past the finish line and slowly went down to lie on the blue track, as opposed to his quick tumble in Beijing four years later.

Jenner most definitely did not fall after his 1500m at the Montreal Olympics.

“Something I’ve always wondered is, are we really giving our all?” Eaton said Monday. “If everybody gave absolutely everything they had, shouldn’t we all just be crawling at the finish line?”

VIDEO: Eaton covers 36 stadium steps in 6 leaps

Caeleb Dressel, after 7 golds in 2017, is on record watch at swim worlds

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For Caeleb Dressel, the comparisons began in earnest two years ago when he matched Michael Phelps‘ record seven gold medals at a single world championships (albeit two were in mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program when Phelps swam).

They will likely spread at this summer’s worlds, which begin Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea (TV schedule here). And they likely won’t dissipate through the next year and the Tokyo Olympics.

For as Dressel endured new obstacles in and out of the pool last summer, winning two of seven individual races at the two major 2018 meets, he came back this May and June with his fastest times since 2017 Worlds.

“I personally think he’s going to break three world records,” next week, NBC Sports analyst Rowdy Gaines said. “I think he’s going to break two for sure, 50m and 100m freestyle. The only one that’s doubtful, to me, would be the 100m fly.”

Dressel, the former prep prodigy who left the sport for five months before joining the University of Florida team in 2014, is expected to swim no less than the same program next week that he did in 2017.

That would mean eight races — the 50m and 100m freestyles and butterflies, the 4x100m free, 4x100m medley and two mixed-gender relays. Two years ago, Dressel won seven of eight, surprisingly taking fourth in the 50m fly (which is not on the Olympic program).

His coach in Gainesville, Gregg Troy, did not rule out adding a ninth event as part of the 4x200m free. However, that would likely give Dressel three swims in one session next Friday and next Saturday, something Phelps never did in his prime when contesting eight events at the Olympics and worlds.

The 2020 question is whether Dressel will try to swim a Phelpsian eight events in Toyko. With no 50m fly and only one mixed-gender relay on the Olympic program, he must add two events to get to eight, perhaps the 200m free and 4x200m free relay.

“I’m not too sure,” Dressel said. “I just want to stay focused on this year. I’ve got the biggest meet of my year coming up in less than a week. I’ll get through this meet, and then me and Troy, we’ll start looking forward next year and maybe add some new events. But I’m not too sure at the moment.”

Dressel turned pro last spring after an unprecedented NCAA career, where his routine included carrying a blue bandana in his mouth on the pool deck. The demands on his time were new, from choosing an agent to signing with a swimwear company.

Troy, who coached Ryan Lochte in his prime to overtake Phelps as the world’s best swimmer in 2011, said he may have overtrained Dressel before last summer’s nationals and Pan Pacific Championships.

After Pan Pacs, Dressel revealed that an earlier motorcycle incident where he was forced off the road by another motorist, but didn’t suffer serious injury, maybe interfered with training.

Now, Dressel chalks that summer to uncharacteristically poor swimming at the wrong time. “I can put as many excuses as I want on that, but that’s really just what it was,” he said. “I mean, it happens to athletes all over the world.

“I’m glad it happened when it did. It can mess with you. It can turn into a downward spiral of self-doubt if you don’t just pick and choose what you want to learn from bad experiences like that. I don’t take it as all too negative. I certainly wouldn’t want it to happen again. Just a bad meet. Move on from it.”

Troy went further, noting the scrutiny on Dressel. Phelps is retired, Lochte suspended (and, at age 34, staving off Father Time), creating an opening for a male U.S. swim star to pair with Katie Ledecky. In 2017, Dressel became that alpha.

“It’s one thing being the guy coming up. It’s another thing being the guy that’s hunted,” Troy said this week. “He’s a little more mature to handle all the outside factors that we had to deal with last summer.”

In 2017, Dressel’s winning times in the 50m and 100m freestyles and the 100m butterfly were a combined .56 shy of three world records. This year, he’s ranked Nos. 1, 3 and 5 in the world in those events.

His 2019 times are a combined .64 faster than his best pre-worlds times in 2017, which is why some believe he’s in for a special week in South Korea. But not everyone buys that logic.

“The meets leading up to it don’t really mean too much,” Dressel demurred.

Dressel didn’t have to peak this year for an NCAA Championships or a nationals (the world team was decided last summer) like in 2017. He had the luxury of putting all his focus the last several months on Gwangju.

“My gut feeling,” Gaines said, “I think he’s going to destroy ’em.”

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World’s fastest mom leads London Diamond League fields; stream schedule

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Jamaican sprinters headline this weekend’s Diamond League meet in London, while most American stars rest up for next week’s USATF Outdoor Championships.

Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-PryceElaine Thompson and Yohan Blake dot the two-day meet at the 2012 Olympic Stadium. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage each morning at 8:15 and 8:50 ET.

Fraser-Pryce and Thompson, who combined to win the last three Olympic 100m and share the fastest time in the world this year of 10.73 seconds, are in separate events in London.

Fraser-Pryce goes in the 100m against the fastest women from Europe and Africa. Thompson faces a less daunting field in the 200m; she’s the only entrant who has run sub-22.3. They could both double up in the 100m and 200m at the world championships in Doha in two months.

As for Blake, he races after being called out by former training partner Usain Bolt for leaving their shared coach of several years, Glen Mills. Blake is the second-fastest man in history but hasn’t been within two tenths of his personal-best 9.69 in nearly seven years.

Here are the London entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

Saturday
8:15 a.m. — Men’s Long Jump
9:04 — Women’s 400m
9:09 — Women’s Pole Vault
9:13 — Men’s 5000m
9:20 — Women’s Javelin
9:40 — Men’s Triple Jump
9:55 — Men’s 800m
10:06 — Women’s 200m
10:17 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
10:29 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
10:39 — Women’s 1500m
10:50 — Men’s 100m

Sunday
8:50 a.m. — Men’s Discus
9:04 — Men’s 400m
9:20 — Men’s High Jump
9:35 — Women’s 800m
9:40 — Women’s Long Jump
9:45 — Men’s Mile
9:56 — Women’s 5000m
10:19 — Men’s 200m
10:29 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
10:39 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
10:50 — Women’s 100m

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 800m — Saturday, 9:55 a.m. ET
Perhaps the greatest race in history came on this track at the 2012 London Games — the men’s 800m final won by David Rudisha in a world record. Botswana’s Nijel Amos took silver that day at age 18 to become the fourth-fastest man ever. Amos has not earned a global championship medal since, but last Friday he clocked his fastest 800m since that evening in London. Here, he faces the next-fastest man in the world this year, Kenyan Ferguson Rotich, and the fastest man of 2017 and 2018, Kenyan Emmanuel Korir.

Men’s 100m — Saturday, 10:50 a.m. ET
Blake hasn’t raced a Diamond League this season and last won on this stage in 2017. Here, he gets an opportunity with the world’s fastest men — all Americans — sitting out. Andre De Grasse, who like Blake has been slowed by leg injuries, is the other marquee name, but he hasn’t broken 10 seconds in 13 tries since taking bronze in Rio, according to Tilastopaja.org.

Men’s Discus — Sunday, 8:50 a.m. ET
Perhaps the deepest field of the meet with the Olympic and world gold and silver medalists and the top three in the world this year. The favorite has to be Swede Daniel Ståhl, who takes up nine of the first 11 spots on the 2019 top list. Ståhl broke the Swedish record three weeks ago with the world’s top throw in 11 years.

Women’s 5000m — Sunday, 9:56 a.m. ET
Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan follows up her world record in the mile (4:12.33) from the last Diamond League stop in Monaco. Hassan was primarily a 1500m runner through the Rio Olympics (where she was fifth) but since added 5000m work. She faces the ultimate test here in world champion Hellen Obiri, the only woman who has been faster over the last two years.

Women’s 100m — Sunday, 10:50 a.m. ET
Fraser-Pryce owns fond memories at this track, though she missed the 2017 World Championships in London due to childbirth. She won her second Olympic 100m in London in 2012 and scored her first post-baby Diamond League win here last summer. Fraser-Pryce has a chance to become the third woman to break 10.75 three times in one year, joining Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988) and Marion Jones (1998). She could get the necessary push from Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Brit Dina Asher-Smith, the fastest in the world in 2018.

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