There are many incredible moments from the Tokyo Olympics that it’s almost cruel to place one above them all.
But we can’t look past the games without raising one to Ash Moloney from Heritage Park – the prodigious 21-year-old who won an historic bronze in the decathlon.
He became the Australian record holder and the nation’s first Olympic medal in the decathlon and in any athletics multievent.
Along the way he hit three personal bests in the 1500m, 110m hurdles, high jump, and the 100m sprint.
“I’m just over the moon to see all the hard work pay off and see him get the recognition he deserves,” mum Alyson Moloney said.
Ash also became coach Eric Brown’s first athlete to win an Olympic medal.
“I knew Ash would medal because he was in incredibly good shape,” Eric said.
“I can’t think of any other 21-year-old who has won an Olympic medal in decathlon because they are such a mature event, and most people don’t mature until their mid- to-late 20s.
“To get the score he did, you’ve got to be world class, which is what he is.”
Ash was in a tight race for third with Garrett Scantling of the USA heading into the 1,500m decathlon finale on day two.
Behind the scenes, Eric met with Athletics Australia the night before to discuss exactly what Ash needed to win, right down to the distance and seconds.
To maintain third, he had to finish within 6 seconds of the American, giving him roughly 45m to work with.
Back at the family home in Heritage Park, Alyson was beside herself watching the race unfold.
“It was so stressful – I was trying to listen to the commentary, trying to see where he was, and I was bashing the bed and yelling out for him to go,” she said.
“When they crossed the line, it took forever to get the results and I was just thinking ‘come on, come on’ because I knew how close it was going to be.”
Ash ended up hitting a personal best of 4:39.19 and, crucially, he came within four seconds of the American to secure the bronze.
To reach that level is remarkable. Ash just didn’t just have to be good, he had to be up there with the world’s best athletes across each of the 10 disciplines on their own. The sorts of scores he posted could have qualified him for a range of the individual events.
His coach Eric stressed this point the most: “A lot of people think that multi-eventers do decathlons or heptathlons because they’re not very good at other events, but I can tell you now that Ash Moloney could make the Olympics in about five or 6 individual events.”
To put it in perspective, of the two guys who beat him, Kevin Mayer is the world record holder and Damien Warner is in the top four of all time. Both men are at the peak of the game from an age and performance perspective. That has Ash in a great position to challenge them at the top in the next few years.
At Tokyo, he bettered his Olympic qualifying score of 8,492 by 150 points. Eric feels he’ll go further and eventually crack the 9,000-point mark, which is godlike in decathlon.
“He has got bucketloads of improvement left in him in every event, and if he stays uninjured, he will only get better,” Eric said.
Eric predicts Ash will have another three Olympics in him if he stays injury-free.
Now back in Australia, Ash will have a short break before getting back into training.
Next year in mid-July, he will be in America for the World Championships and fly to England two weeks later for the Commonwealth Games.