If you’ve spent much time thumbing through the decathlon scoring tables, you’ll notice that no points are given for a certain skill that will be important in this evening’s 60-minute decathlon at Mooberry Track.
When Dan O’Brien, Robert Zmelik and Chris Huffins go at it this evening at 5:30 for an ESPN national cable audience (disregard TV listings reporting a 4:30 start), the wild competition may come down to who can get in and out of their various footwear the quickest.
The typical decathlete wears eight different pairs of shoes during the competition, which is not a problem when the 10 events are spread across two days.
But the time limits make quick changes and strategic time-saving tactics important - and will likely add to the frantic nature of the unique event.
Admission is free and, because of the live telecast, the event will proceed in all weather conditions short of life-threatening lightning.
“(Fans) will be able to see all 10 events in an hour and it’s going to be a circus atmosphere with everybody racing around,” said Washington State track coach Rick Sloan, who also helps coach O’Brien.
Although France’s Christian Plaziat, the record holder for most decathlons over 8,000 points, could not be brought in as planned, the field remains strong.
O’Brien is the world record holder and three-time World Champion. Zmelik of the Czech Republic won the gold medal in Barcelona, and Huffins is the rapidly rising American standout who finished second to O’Brien in this summer’s U.S. championships.
Huffins, in fact, has taken early event leads over O’Brien in their last two meetings with impressive efforts in the 100 meters and long jump.
The format of the event calls for the three athletes to compete simultaneously in the running events.
The gun for the 100 starts the hour ticking, with the 400 meters starting 18 minutes after the start of the 100, the 110 high hurdles starting 17 minutes after that, and the 1,500 beginning 53 minutes after the first gun.
Aside from that, the athletes can race around and make attempts in the other six events as they choose.
Sloan said this will involve considerable strategy, and he was bashful about sharing O’Brien’s game plan.
Commenting for ESPN will be Great Britain’s Daley Thompson, a two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist.
Decathlon expert Frank Zarnowski, meanwhile, will be on hand to announce the event.