Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic confirmed his status at the world's best all-around athlete when he won the Olympic decathlon gold medal Tuesday night.
Most Olympians specialize in one discipline. There are exceptions, like the different strokes in swimming, the various gymnastics apparatus, the triathlon, modern pentathlon and the women's heptathlon, which has seven disciplines.
But the men's decathlon, which features 10 events taking place over two days, is considered to be the most difficult of all.
On the first day, the athletes compete in the 100-meter dash, the long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 meter run. Day two, in order, features the 110-meter hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and 1500-meter run. Points in each event are scored according to a set of tables approved by track and field's world governing body IAAF.
Coming into the Olympics, 29-year-old Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic was favored to win the gold medal. He's the world record holder and the only man to break 9,000 points in the decathlon (9,026).
The 1.86-meter-tall Sebrle had won the decathlon silver medal four years ago at the Sydney Olympics and was second to American Tom Pappas at last year's World Athletics Championships. He said he tried not to think too much about how Pappas was performing.
"I looked to him a little bit because I had to focus just on me and think about my events and my results and look in front and it was a very hard competition," Sebrle said.
Tom Pappas still had the gold medal in site after the first day in Athens, but was forced to drop out on the second day with an injured foot.
Roman Sebrle trailed Dmitry Karpov of Kazakhstan entering the second day and finally passed him in the javelin, the next to last event. The Czech held on to take the gold medal. American Bryan Clay also passed Karpov in the javelin segment and won the silver medal, while Karpov had to settle for the bronze.
Sebrle, with an Olympic record total of 8,893 points, was relieved to get the victory. "I was nervous the whole time and I think about gold, and thinking about making [winning] it. All two days were very hard because Clay and Karpov had very good results and I was third the whole time," he said. "And it was a very hard competition for me, a very long competition, too many good competitors, very hot, and I am happy now."
The likeable Roman Sebrle is quite modest. Despite his decathlon gold medal achievement, he does not consider himself the top all-around athlete in the world.
"No, no," he insisted. "Every event is hard and hard to train for. And I think every athlete is the best athlete."
The only thing the Czech star would acknowledge is that decathletes are a special kind of athlete.