Some athletes make a virtue of not specializing in one area. Among the greatest athletes of the late 20th century are two American Olympic champions: Dan O'Brien, winner of the decathlon at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, winner of the heptathlon at both the 1988 (Seoul) and 1992 (Barcelona) games. By tradition, the winner of the decathlon, a grueling series of ten events, is commonly referred to as the "world's greatest athlete." But Joyner-Kersee can challenge O'Brien for this title. She won three Olympic gold medals and dominated the women's long jump event, in addition to the heptathlon (a series of seven track and field events), during the 1980s and 1990s.
Although both O'Brien and Joyner-Kersee set world records in their respective multi-event specialties, their Olympic gold medal winning performances did not feature a world record in any individual event. The decathlon and heptathlon test the ability of athletes to excel different areas: "They both demand a perfectly balanced athleticism over two days. Combined events athletes must be brilliant runners, remarkable jumpers and quality throwers, all at the same time.Over-specialization seriously impairs performance."
|Decathlon Results for Dan O'Brien|
|1996 Atlanta Olympics||World Record|
|1.||100 meters||10.50 seconds||9.84 seconds|
|2.||Long jump||24.83 feet||29.38 feet|
|3.||Shotput||51.38 feet||75.85 feet|
|4.||High jump||6.79 feet||8.04 feet|
|5.||400 meters||46.82 seconds||43.29 seconds|
|6.||110 meter hurdles||13.87 seconds||12.91 seconds|
|7.||Discus||160 feet||243 feet|
|8.||Pole vault||16.40 feet||20.15 feet|
|9.||Javelin||219.5 feet||313.83 feet|
|Heptathlon Results for Jackie Joyner-Kersee|
|1988 Seoul Olympics||World Record|
|1.||100 meters||12.69 seconds||12.21 seconds|
|2.||Shotput||15.80 meters **||22.63 meters|
|3.||High jump||1.86 meters||2.09 meters|
|4.||200 meters||22.56 seconds||21.34 seconds|
|5.||Long jump||7.27 meters||7.52 meters|
|6.||Javelin||45.66 meters||80.00 meters|
Take the following interactive quiz to see if you know what events Dan O'Brien and Jackie Joyner-Kersee should specialize in.