WRITTEN FOR THE EXXONMOBIL BISLETT GAMES / IAAF OSLO DIAMOND LEAGUE MEDIA TEAM
The first official press conference ahead of tomorrow’s ExxonMobil Bislett Games and IAAF Diamond League welcomed decathlon superstar, Ashton Eaton and local hurdler, Oyvind Strommen Kjerpeset at Oslo’s Thon Hotel Opera in front of the assembled international media this morning.
Eaton - the Olympic and world decathlon champion and world record-holder – is enjoying remarkable success in his new event, the 400m hurdles this season and will tackle his fifth race in the Norwegian capital tomorrow evening against Norway’s seven-time national champion, Strommen Kjerpeset who is seeking to improve his 49.95 national record in front of the home crowd support.
Having recorded an impressive 49.07 personal best in Hengelo on Sunday behind Olympic bronze and world silver medallist, Javier Culson at the FBK Games, Eaton now lays in ninth position on the IAAF world ranking list for the 2014 campaign and explained:
“I was good at it (the 400m hurdles) and was always curious so tried it and I needed a break from the past few years especially ahead of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“The 400m is my base training so we just took a step further with the hurdles and that’s why I chose that event.
“The 110m hurdles was fun (when he ran a 13.3 personal best for sixth place at the Prefontaine Classic and Eugene Diamond League last month) and I’d love to do the long jump and the pole vault at a meet.
“When it’s something new, you can stay sharp as you focus on getting better - not fall into bad habits and routines. It’s now about new approaches, staying athletic and learning something new.”
The 26-year-old American’s form has evidently been given a new lease of life following a few high-pressured years where he has captured every major championship title on offer, with the two-time world indoor heptathlon champion improving his time over the 400m barriers by almost a full second this summer.
“When 2013 finished, I was very tired mentally as I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to perform, it’s a lot of stress on the mind, I felt tired and needed a change and now I’ve done that, I’ll have no problem competing until 2020 when I’m 32,” Eaton revealed.
“It’s impossible to say what will happen - I didn’t know two years ago that I’d break the world record.
“Who knows if I’ll do the decathlon until 2020, I’ve taken the event as far as I could and so I now want to do that in other events but I’ll do the decathlon until 2016
On his recent change of discipline, he continued:
“I’ve been watching videos of other athletes who are of the same height and speed as me to watch their stride pattern, and I was watching a video of my last race at breakfast this morning to get excited for tomorrow’s race.”
Eaton - who will next compete in the IAAF World Challenge in Ostrava on Tuesday the 17th – insisted that his multi-event form will not be affected despite focusing on just the one event this summer:
“I don’t think I’m losing my edge in the other events, even though I’m not competing in them, I still practise them in training – I’m just learning to be an athlete,” he said.
“My (training) times in intervals have actually got faster I think because I’m forced to be more aggressive as you have to focus on the number of steps (between the hurdles) and training for it is the same pain I feel in the 400m, it’s always in my hamstrings.”
Often described as the ‘Superman of athletics’, Eaton continued:
“My goal is always to set a personal best – it’s easy for me as I know it’s only temporary as I don’t see myself doing this (event) in the Olympics or World’s so I have an advantage over my competitors.
“My only plan is to race well and to finish each race as number one.”
“There was a big difference in the smoothness of my race (in Hengelo) – I’m learning to be more fluid.”
Arguably one of the star attractions on show in Oslo, Eaton however was his usual modest self:
“I don’t feel like a big star, I just feel like me. I’m just a normal person who’s happened to found what they’re good at and who loves doing it, but I don’t do it to be the biggest star.”
Meanwhile, Strommen Kjerpeset spoke of his hopes for tomorrow evening’s race.
The 22-year-old Norwegian record-holder with a 49.95 clocking last summer has recorded 50.78 this season and explained:
“I’ve been practising since February but my last competition didn’t quite work out as I wanted so I’m hoping to fix that tomorrow.
“I’m hoping for a personal best – a Norwegian record would make me happy.
“My goal is the European Championships in Zurich (in August) – I want to do well there, I’m hoping to make the final but I’ve been struggling with a foot injury which has held me back, but there’s a long time to go.”
Eaton was happy to offer his rival some advice ahead of their clash:
“It’s very important to keep changing - if you fail in your plan, learn from it.
“Change is key - always adapt to be successful and don’t be afraid – to do the same thing and expect different results doesn’t make sense.”