Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee accomplished something on Thursday that hadn't been done since 1956. They took home gold and silver for the United States in the men's decathlon at the Olympics.
Eaton cruised to the gold medal, winning by 198 points. Meanwhile, two-time world champion Hardee settled for the silver, posting a score of 8,671. Leonel Suarez of Cuba took the bronze with 8,523 points.
It was the first time the U.S. had athletes go one-two since 1956 in Melbourne when Milt Campbell took home the gold and the great Rafer Johnson earned the silver.
Eaton led most of the way through the competition and was close to challenging his own world record. But in the 1,500 meters (which is the final event) he needed to cut six seconds off his personal best. Instead he ran a cautious race, and ensured he would take home the gold. He finished with 8,869 points, his world record currently stands at 9,039.
The one-two finish is significant because of who the Americans matched in doing so. Campbell was a dominant athlete in his time, but Johnson is considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes to ever live. On and off the field Johnson was a trail blazer. And his second place finish behind Campbell in 1956 was the last time he would ever lose in the competition.
Johnson eventually won the decathlon at the 1960 Games in Rome, where he was also named the captain of the entire United States team and became the first African American to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremonies.
He was also named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 1958 (two years before he even won the gold medal), was the first African American athlete to win the James E. Sullivan Award given to the nation's top amateur athlete, and was chosen to ignite the Olympic Flame during the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in 1984.
Oh, and on top of that he played basketball while at UCLA under John Wooden and was a starter on the 1959-60 team. So yeah, he was a pretty good athlete that the public has somehow forgotten over time.
For Eaton and Hardee to be mentioned in the same breath as two of the greatest athletes in American history, it has to be an honor. And Hardee can take heart, Johnson had to get the silver before winning the gold. Maybe the 2016 Games in Rio will be his time to shine.
Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images