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DISCIPLINES: THE DECATHLON


The Olympic decathlon is internationally recognized as the most demanding test of individual athletic ability there is. It is the event that determines the world's greatest all-around athlete.


Originating in a contest held at the 708 B.C. Olympiad to single out Greece's most perfect physician specimen, the modern decathalon requires an athlete to contest ten events in just two grueling days.


He must sprint 100 meters, long jump, heave a 16-pound shot, high jump, race 400 meters, scamper the 110-meter high hurdles, sling the discus, pole-vault, throw the javelin and top off the performance by running 1500 meters (nearly a mile). The sequence is arranged specifically to prevent him from using essentially the same motion twice in succession.


Merely enduring this punishing routine is enough to leave a decathloner quivering with fatique and 12 to 15 pounds lighter through dehydration—but not enough to guarantee him a respectable finish.


The reason: he must achieve top marks under a complicated, 78-page scoring system that is based not only on how well he performs against his opponents in each event but also on how his effort compares with the latest standards for that event.


— Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations —

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