Newdick surges to 12th place in decathlon
All things considered – and there was a bit to factor in – Kiwi decathlete Brent Newdick was over the moon with his 12th-place finish today in the Olympics' most gruelling track and field event.
Newdick had dipped as low as 20th and as high as 11th through the 10 disciplines that make up the decathlon, but a solid finish where he nailed respectable efforts with the javelin (59.82 metres) and over the 1500 metres (4min 38.20s) enabled him to surpass his primary goal at these Games.
The 27-year-old, who lives in Auckland but still calls Papamoa home, had only been able to complete one full decathlon competition this year pre-Games because of a niggling back problem that came right when he was due to hit the European circuit.
So he came into these Olympics just a little underdone – explaining some of his scratchy efforts on the track – and was rapt to work his way up to 12th which he said later was just two spots off his "dream" result.
"I didn't make the best start to both days from what I was expecting, the way training was going," he said soon after completing the traditional "victory" lap with the entire field. "But that's decathlon. There's 10 events, and you've got to stick at all 10.
"The day got better throughout the day. Nothing really went right but it was just solid right the way through..
"I definitely wanted to come top 16, I wanted to prove that I was worthy of being here. In my mind I thought top-10 would be awesome. But not everything went right, so I'm happy with 12th."
Newdick knocked over most of the hurdles in a shaky opener to the final day, and put his general lack of sharpness on the track down to just not enough racing under his belt.
"Unfortunately that injury happened at the start of the year. It was only a small one, and I think I did the best to manage it and went home, got it fixed straight away and made sure I was in the best position from there.
"I don't know what it was exactly, I think I put my pelvis out, and sitting on a plane going to Europe after Aussie didn't help. It was something that was really little but that stopped me from running. I got back to New Zealand and fixed it in a week and got back into training. But I just lost that competition phase."
After that 15.02sec hurdles, Newdick had slipped back to 20th, but he gradually clawed his way back. His discus was an acceptable 46.15m and his pole vault a similar pass mark of 4.70m. Then came the javelin, and he somehow found the energy to stride round the 1500m in a time that hoisted him from 14th to his eventual finishing position.
And unlike the competitors from other disciplines who finished outside the medals on this track, he got to do the victory lap with all his mates who had spent the past two days in front of the 80,000 fans who fill this stadium twice a day.
"It was huge," added Newdick. "I got to see everyone that was supporting, and there was heaps of Kiwi support out there - people I didn't know and a lot of family and friends that I did know. It's a long two days and the crowd gives so much to us, that's a way of us giving thanks back."
The decathlon was won by American sensation, and world record-holder, Ashton Eaton whose 8869 points was 198 clear of compatriot Trey Hardee and a massive 346 ahead of bronze medallist Leonel Suarez of Cuba.
Newdick said he first met Eaton two or three years ago in Berlin, and realised instantly the 24-year-old was something special.
"I've watched him come through in leaps and bounds. Everyone knew he was going to get the record, he's such a nice guy and an amazing performer. It's just awesome to be part of it."
Satisfied and sated – Newdick says Rio's already on his mind – the Kiwi iron man now intends to enjoy what's left of these Games. If he can find the energy.