Imagine if the world’s five greatest all-round athletes in history lined up against each other in top form and competed in a decathlon.

It would never happen, of course, because four of those decathletes are now retired. But it’s interesting to take their PB scores – all of which were world records at the time – and see how they compare, event by event.

It’s a lot close than you might think.

Ashton Eaton comes out on top overall, of course. But, unlike in Beijing where he led from start to finish, here in this virtual competition, he only leads at three points during the competition, each time after track events. He goes as low as fifth after the shot put and high jump and is still only in fourth place after nine events before pulling it all back in the 1500m.

Dan O’Brien has the lion’s share of the lead, sitting in pole position following six of the 10 events. But he finally slips out of the top two after the javelin and, as the slowest 1500m runner of the quintet, moves down to fourth by the end of the contest.

Czech duo Roman Sebrle Tomas Dvorak go through similar peaks and troughs. Their biggest dip comes after the 400m, but they excel in the throws – and the javelin in particular – giving them both a top-three finish.

Like Eaton, Daley Thompson’s best events are on the track. But after spending most of day one in the top three, he slips to fifth after the 110m hurdles and remains in that position.

Obviously these guys were capable of better marks than some of the ones they achieved within their world record series. And of course, had they all faced each other when they were each at their best, then the outcome may have been quite different to this. But this is purely a comparison of their world record performances.

Broken down into individual events, the competition plays out like…


1 Ashton Eaton 10.23
2 Dan O’Brien 10.43
3 Daley Thompson 10.44
4 Tomas Dvorak 10.54
5 Roman Sebrle 10.64

After one event:
1 Eaton 1040
2 O’Brien 992
3 Thompson 989
4 Dvorak 966
5 Sebrle 942

Long jump

1 Roman Sebrle 8.11m
2 Dan O’Brien 8.08m
3 Daley Thompson 8.01m
4 Tomas Dvorak 7.90m
5 Ashton Eaton 7.88m

After two events:
1 O’Brien 2073
2 Eaton 2070
3 Thompson 2052
4 Sebrle 2031
5 Dvorak 2001

Shot put

1 Tomas Dvorak 16.78m
2 Dan O’Brien 16.69m
3 Daley Thompson 15.72m
4 Roman Sebrle 15.33m
5 Ashton Eaton 14.52m

After three events:
1 O’Brien 2967
2 Dvorak 2900
3 Thompson 2886
4 Sebrle 2841
5 Eaton 2830

High jump

1 Roman Sebrle 2.12m
2 Dan O’Brien 2.07m
3 Tomas Dvorak 2.04m
4 Daley Thompson 2.03m
5 Ashton Eaton 2.01m

After four events:
1 O’Brien 3835
2 Sebrle 3756
3 Dvorak 3740
4 Thompson 3717
5 Eaton 3643


1 Ashton Eaton 45.00
2 Daley Thompson 46.97
3 Roman Sebrle 47.79
4 Tomas Dvorak 48.08
5 Dan O’Brien 48.51

After five events:
1 O’Brien 4720
2 Eaton 4703
3 Thompson 4677
4 Sebrle 4675
5 Dvorak 4645

110m hurdles

1 Ashton Eaton 13.69
2 Tomas Dvorak 13.73
3 Roman Sebrle 13.92
4 Dan O’Brien 13.98
5 Daley Thompson 14.33

After six events:
1 Eaton 5718
2 O’Brien 5697
3 Sebrle 5660
4 Dvorak 5655
5 Thompson 5609


1 Dan O’Brien 48.56m
2 Tomas Dvorak 48.33m
3 Roman Sebrle 47.92m
4 Daley Thompson 46.56m
5 Ashton Eaton 43.34m

After seven events:
1 O’Brien 6537
2 Dvorak 6491
3 Sebrle 6487
4 Eaton 6451
5 Thompson 6408

Pole vault

1 Ashton Eaton 5.20m
2 Daley Thompson 5.00m
2 Dan O’Brien 5.00m
4 Tomas Dvorak 4.90m
5 Roman Sebrle 4.80m

After eight events:
1 O’Brien 7447
2 Eaton 7423
3 Dvorak 7371
4 Sebrle 7336
5 Thompson 7318


1 Tomas Dvorak 72.32m
2 Roman Sebrle 70.16m
3 Daley Thompson 65.24m
4 Ashton Eaton 63.63m
5 Dan O’Brien 62.58m

After nine events:
1 Dvorak 8296
2 Sebrle 8228
3 O’Brien 8224
4 Eaton 8216
5 Thompson 8135


1 Ashton Eaton 4:17.52
2 Roman Sebrle 4:21.98
3 Daley Thompson 4:35.00
4 Tomas Dvorak 4:37.20
5 Dan O’Brien 4:42.10

Final scores:
1 Eaton 9045
2 Sebrle 9026
3 Dvorak 8994
4 O’Brien 8891
5 Thompson 8847


  1. Ron says: September 19, 2015 • 02:43:00

    What would Rafer Johnson have scored if he had been able to compete under modern conditions: He ran 10.6 on a cinder track when the world record was 10.1 and 48.1 in the 400m, long jumped 7.76m (WR 8.17m), hurdled 13.7 (WR 13.2), threw the shot 16.69m, and threw the javelin 76.51m (old rules). He only high jumped 1.83m but into a sawdust pit (before the flop) and vaulted 4.00m with a steel pole (into sawdust too!) and only ran 4:50 in the 1500m but on the old tables there were very points awarded to the 1500m. It’s very difficult to compare performances from 55 years ago with current marks, but, for me, the best ever decathlete is still Rafer Johnson.

  2. Richard Hymans says: September 19, 2015 • 14:21:55

    At the peak of their powers it wouldn’t have worked out quite like that if they had all been in Beijing. For example the hardness of the track and the bigger headwind Thompson ran into (Eaton -0.4, Thompson -1.0) would have meant that Thompson would have been 2-3/100ths behind in the 100. Without taking this event by event, it’s fair to say the difference between 1st and 5th would have been much less. When asked recently about Eaton, Thompson said “Eaton’s terrific – I wouldn’t have beaten him by much”.

  3. Jon Mulkeen says: September 20, 2015 • 08:54:12

    Yep, which is why I said earlier in the blog post: “And of course, had they all faced each other when they were each at their best, then the outcome may have been quite different to this. But this is purely a comparison of their world record performances.” 🙂

Leave a comment