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U.S. Decathlon Champion Garrett Scantling Is Ready To Put America Back On The Podium At Worlds

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This past weekend, Garrett Scantling secured his place for the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon by winning the USATF Combined Events Championships. His 8,867 points not only gave him the victory but moved him up to No. 3 on the U.S. all-time list and makes him the 7th best decathlete ever in the world. He finished fourth at last year’s Tokyo Olympics but the most interesting thing about his path to success is that he took a break away from the sport. After finishing fourth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, Scantling decided to retire and then signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a receiver for their 2017 spring camp. He also spent some time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. And when football didn’t work out, he took a desk job as a financial advisor. We go through all of that and what eventually drew him back into the sport, which he really loves and wants to grow. He’ll be joined by Georgia junior Kyle Garland, who broke the NCAA decathlon record this weekend, and two-time Olympian Zach Ziemek on Team USA for Worlds.

Catch the latest episode of the podcast on Apple Podcasts. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.


garrett scantling decathlon 2022 world championships

Photo by Kevin Morris/@kevmofoto


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SHOW NOTES AND NOTABLE QUOTES

Has it settled in that you’re now No. 7 all-time in the world and No. 3 in the United States?

“Everyone at this level of the sport is vying to be the best. I’m just proud of myself for the mindset that I’ve had over the past year, stepping up my training and wanting to prove to myself that I can be in the conversation with some of the all-time greats. Having this competition has really given me validation of everything that I’ve given into the sport after retiring from it. I’m on cloud nine when it comes to being proud of myself and being proud of the work that’s been put in but there’s definitely work to do.”

The United States tradition of excellence within the combined events

“I think the NCAA system has a lot to do with that. Getting that nice structure from these awesome coaches from all around the world and having that type of competition every year just sets us up almost for a breeding ground for the decathlon. Within the NCAA, you blossom them all and watch them grow. Kyle Garland is an example of that. Going to Georgia and being in that system with athletes from all over the world just really helped him grow mentally and physically. I think that’s the most important thing for us as American decathletes and why we’ve always set the standard. We’ve been doing it at a high level for a long time. (Canada’s) Damian Warner is the greatest athlete, in my opinion, in the world and he came away with gold and an Olympic record last year. There are still definitely people we’re chasing. We can line ourselves up with those guys. It’s not just Americans battling Americans. There’s talent everywhere in the world. The NCAA makes it seem like the decathlon is turnt up here. Ayden Owens, for example, is a Puerto Rican decathlete and he broke the collegiate record before Kyle broke his. The decathlon is only going up. The scores are getting more ridiculous and the talent is there. With the structure of the NCAA, it’s going to blossom amazing decathletes in the future.”

What happened in the decathlon after Ashton Eaton retired that opened the floodgates to these scores getting better and eventually when Kevin Mayer surprisingly broke the world record in 2018?

“Even I was surprised by Kevin breaking that. I thought Ashton would be untouchable. A bunch of people did. He was just such an awesome athlete. He was so fast. He was so smart and so mentally tough and that’s exactly what you need in a decathlete. I think a lot of people were looking at (Ashton) and they were molding themselves after how he approaches things. Ayden Owens is extremely fast and you can’t really teach speed. If you have the speed and you have the strength and then if you get the right coaches, the coaches can then mold that into an awesome decathlete. Not only have the athletes evolved in their way of wanting to be part of the decathlon but the coaches and the access to the knowledge and their ability to mold a decathlete from a hurdler or jumper into a thrower or miler. It’s amazing. It’s really awesome to see. 

In my opinion, I didn’t think that so short after Ashton retired that his record would be broken. It kind of gives me validation in my training that I’ve gotten almost into that conversation and I’m right there with them. That’s just a huge step. The more work that I put in and the more competitions that I have, the more realistic that looks for me to get up there with the all-time greats.”

When Ashton retired, there were big shoes to fill. Now, how much bigger are Ashton’s shoes than yours?

“When I retired, I was at 8200 points. I didn’t really see anybody that could challenge that 9000-point barrier. I knew it would be a little bit until someone found another Ashton Eaton. That was one of the reasons I decided to come back. I saw those shoes were up there to fill. I felt that I had the talent to do so. I just had to actually put in the work this time around and know I had to do what I had to do…When you say how much bigger are his shoes than mine, so I recently went from a 12.5 to a 13 because for some reason my foot gets wider. I’m going to actually say that his shoes are probably a half size or maybe a size bigger than mine at this point. Mainly because of the fact of that mental toughness. I think I’m still working on that. It was something that I admired so much about Ashton Eaton. It was if he needed to do something, he went out and he did it. No matter what. There were no excuses. He was just like, ‘I want to get these points so I’m going to go out and run this’ or ‘I’m going to go out there and jump this.’ It didn’t matter. I think I’m still trying to get to that point in my career. I’m definitely a lot better than I have been in the past. I just have so much more room to grow in that area. That’s why he’s still a couple of steps up.”

Have any of the past greats reached out since this past weekend?

“Just having this wave of former decathletes like Trey Hardee, Dan O’Brien and Bryan Clay – all three of them reached out to me after the competition this past weekend to tell me how proud they were to have someone carry on this tradition that they set forth. It’s an honor for me. From the moment I step foot in this sport in 2011 in college, I had no idea what to expect. I always had heard of Trey Hardee, Dan O’Brien and Ashton Eaton so they were my role models and as someone who is so competitive at heart, I wanted to be like them and push my scores to get up next to them. The fact that I’ve passed a few and I’m getting so close to the others, I’m just honored. That’s the only word I can think of and I’m so blessed to have the path that they set for me to carry on this tradition.”

There has not been an American on the podium at a global outdoor championship since Ashton retired. After how this past weekend went, it’s not out of the question to be shooting for those medals.

“I was talking to Kyle and Zach about this. We finally have two and a half months before Worlds. We’re probably the only sport aside from us, the marathon and the 10K who needs that space to peak again. I’m really excited about what we can do. This gives us time to relax and it gives us time to re-focus and get our bodies ready to peak again. As crazy as this sounds, it doesn’t seem to me like I was peaking at the time of this competition. I had an oblique tear – a pretty significant 4cm x 2cm tear in my internal oblique three weeks ago. I had the MRI, I couldn’t even cough or sneeze. All of that hurt. After putting in so much work, I don’t know if that helped me. Who knows with that kind of stuff. Maybe it gave my body a rest or something like that. Either way, us getting this rest and this time to re-focus, it’s going to allow us to be our best at the right time so medals are obviously the goal for all of us. Me being able to lead them and attack it on our home soil with the crowd being incredible, I can’t wait. I’m super excited. My whole family is going to be there. My girlfriend is going to be there. My cousins will be there. Everybody. It will be awesome.”


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