The modern decathlon is an event that’s said to crown the single greatest athlete in the world. It combines 10 Track & Field events into the decathlon super event, split over two days with athletes from all across the world vying for the crown. This is the event that Bruce Jenner won back at the Montreal Summer Olympics in 1976, and for those of you bros keeping tally at home an athlete from the United States has won Gold at the Olympic Decathlon in the past two Summer Olympics (and in 3 of the last 5).
Gold medalist Ashton Eaton was the last athlete to win the decathlon (at the London Summer Olympics), and he recently spoke with BusinessInsider.com about which sport he thinks requires the most athleticism of all:
“I personally believe tennis is the next most athletic sport next to the decathlon,” Eaton said. “Just because of certain things required. Those matches are three or four hours long. There’s the technical aspect, the agility, the mind-body awareness. Not to mention the game itself is a little bit like a chess match.”
“You can speculate all day, by what you perceive people to do, but I think there’s two aspects to athleticism. I think there’s the body, and then there’s definitely the mind,” Eaton said. “People like to just focus on the body part. I don’t think that’s a holistic approach.”
They posed this question to him in the context of ‘which superstar athlete does he think is really the most athletic’, expecting him to say something like Kevin Durant or Calvin Johnson. Instead he chose not to name an individual athlete, stating that he believes Tennis requires the most athleticism of any sport (based on his definition). He also went on to state that he doesn’t think Lebron or any other major athlete could hang in the decathlon, and he makes a pretty compelling case of why they’d falter.
I happen to think that athleticism and physicality are intertwined, so for my money the most athletic sports are 1) Water Polo and 2) Crew/Rowing. They’re the most physically draining of any organized sports, and I think that Ashton Eaton was wrong to overlook them.