I’m Gabby Pieraccini, and I like to tell the stories of decathlon. Every decathlon has a story.
I grew up with the almighty battles between Daley Thompson and Jurgen Hingsen in the decathlon. I was fascinated by two people who looked so different in stature – Daley was compact and Jurgen basically a tree –competing in the same event.
In most other athletics events, we only get to watch athletes compete for a few minutes or even just a few seconds. In the decathlon, we live through two days and ten iterations of highs and lows, following the momentum of the highs, and witnessing the resilience required for the lows. Every run, every jump, every throw. Every decathlon has a story.
Daley and Jurgen were a special kind of partnership, and the camaraderie in the multievents is second to none. The stories behind the multievents, and the decathlon with its particular combination of speed, strength and technique captured my imagination. And so I was hooked. Decades later, I still am.
WHY DECATHLETES OF EUROPE?
Decathletes of Europe is a happy accident of geography. On my doorstep are dozens of countries, from France to Montenegro, from Germany to Ukraine, between them producing an endless stream of decathletes, of all shapes and sizes and skill. And Europe hosts a suite of super multi-event competitions, from Gotzis in Austria to Decastar in France, Multistars in Italy and all the championships inbetween.
But put me in front of any multievent, with any athlete, and I’m happy. I rejoiced in Berlin in 2009 atTrey Hardee’s and Jessica Ennis’ glorious golds, winced in 2007 in Birmingham as Josef Karas limped round the 1000m with cramp, cheered Ashton Eaton over 400m hurdles in Glasgow in 2014, cried along with Arthur Abele as he won gold in Berlin in 2018, and was soaked in the champagne spray in Talence that followed Kevin Mayer’s breathtaking world record.
Here you’ll find the stories of individual decathlons, for both men and women; heptathlons indoor and out; decathletes of Europe and multieventers of the world. Every decathlon has a story and I do my best to tell those stories.
Helping me to tell those stories, many of the photos here are the work of my friend James Rhodes. I’m also grateful to Michel Fisquet, Olavi Kaljunen and Bjorn Paree for permission to use their material, and also X-Athletics in Clermont Ferrand. Other credits are noted where relevant. For a more detailed presentation of facts and figures about individual athletes and performances, I recommend you enjoy the work of Decathlon 2000.