SOPOT, Poland (AP) — Ashton Eaton won yet another gold medal and again proved himself the "world's greatest athlete," the title which traditionally goes to the best multi-event competitor in athletics.
Yet after winning the heptathlon at the world indoor championships on Saturday, all Eaton could do was slam his fist in frustration on the track's side railing. He called himself "weak" because he missed beating his own world record by 1.18 seconds over the closing 1,000 meters.
"I don't know, I'm just mentally weak," Eaton said, feeling he had not pushed himself through enough pain and fatigue to break the heptathlon world record again. "I thought I was more tired than I actually was. And to me that is just being weak. I should push through being tired. It is ridiculous," he said.
Eaton was effectively competing only against himself during the two-day seven-event competition, chasing the world record points total he set at the world indoors in Istanbul in 2012. The defending champion held a massive winning margin of 329 points over Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, while Thomas Van der Plaetsen of Belgium took bronze.
Eaton finished the closing 1,000 in 2 minutes, 34.72 seconds for a total of 6,632 points. The record stands at 6,645. Missed it by 13 points in a 6,000-plus competition. Still, what he considered defeat, not getting the world record, will teach him a lot. "I am not a robot, but I try," Eaton said.
Eaton still remembers the pain of losing to American compatriot Trey Hardee at the outdoor world championships in Daegu three years ago, and went back to the drawing board to prepare for the London Olympics.
"I learned so much from failure," he said. Eaton has not looked back since, winning everything in sight. He intends to take a break from the bruising multi-event disciplines and give himself respite with a season of 400 hurdles.
It is another way to deal with a setback and come back stronger for the 2015 world championships in Beijing and the Rio Olympics the following year. And, perhaps worst of all, he doesn't even feel the toughest in his own household anymore. Late Friday, his Canadian wife Brianne Theisen Eaton took silver in the pentathlon.
"Right now, Brianne is way tougher than I am," he said. There was plenty of other American success to celebrate. In the biggest upset of the championships so far, Nia Ali caught up with defending champion Sally Pearson at the last hurdle and outkicked her for the line to take the 60 hurdles title in a personal best of 7.80 seconds, holding an .05 edge over the Australian.
In the women's 400, Francena McCorory outlasted Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica to add an individual title to her world outdoor and Olympic 4x400 relay titles. It left the United States top of the medal table with four gold and six medals overall, followed by Russia with two gold.
If Eaton rules the multi-events like no one else, Valerie Adams is in a class all her own in the women's shot put. She won with 20.67 meters over Germany's Christina Schwanitz, who took silver with 19.94. Since taking silver at the 2010 indoors, the New Zealander has won every major event she's entered.
"This is my job and I love my job," she said. With great sprinters like Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake skipping the indoor championships, the 60 race is hardly to decide the world's fastest athlete. But where most were expecting another U.S-Jamaican battle, between Nesta Carter and emerging U.S. sprinter Marvin Bracy, it was Richard Kilty who ran off with gold. It was the third indoor title for Britain in 10 years.
Kilty finished in 6.49 seconds, .02 ahead of Bracy. Femi Ogunode of Qatar took bronze. There were plenty of surprises, with Pavel Maslak setting a Czech record to win the 400 ahead of Chris Brown of the Bahamas and Kyle Clemons of the United States.
In the women's high jump, gold was shared between Maria Kuchina of Russia and Kamila Licwinko, who set a Polish record and the crowd alight with her jump over 2 meters. Almost as close was the women's triple jump, where Russia won its first gold medal. Ekatarina Koneva set a mark of 14.46 meters, while Ukraine's Olga Saladukha closed within one centimeter of the winner.
The biggest margin was in the women's 1,500. In the absence of world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, Abeba Aregawi of Sweden broke away early to win in 4:00.61, a huge 6.51 seconds ahead of Ethiopia's Axumawit Embaye. Defending champion Dibaba chose to compete in Sunday's 3,000 only at the championships.
Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert