By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) - A busy Ashton Eaton is hoping an indoor season filled with competitions coast-to-coast will help him gain entry into an exclusive club of back-to-back Olympic decathlon gold medal winners.
Already twice a world champion in the indoor heptathlon and outdoor decathlon and world record holder in each, the American is using meetings in North Carolina, Boston, New York and Portland to prepare for next month's world indoor championships and August's Rio Olympics.
A victory in Rio would propel the IAAF athlete of the year to a status only American Bob Mathias and Britain's Daley Thompson enjoy as winners of consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 10-event decathlon.
Mathias achieved the honor with first place finishes at the 1948 and 1952 Games. Thompson followed in 1980 and 1984.
Eaton, the only man to score 9,000 points twice in the decathlon and a favorite for Rio, seemed to try and deflect the pressure that going for double Olympic gold will surely bring.
"To get them, it's nice," he told Reuters. "But the nice part is trying to get there."
Self-motivation will be a key, the 28-year-old Oregonian admitted.
No decathlete came within 300 points of his record-breaking 9,045 points last year.
"I am not the one who has to try to beat me," Eaton said. "Other people may think I have to make these changes or two. At the very worst if I have no changes I stay the same."
Yet along with the training outdoors back home in Eugene, Oregon, Eaton is testing himself indoors in the sprints, hurdles, jumps and shot put.
Already he has set a lifetime best in the indoor pole vault, clearing 5.40 meters in Boston.
The extra meets are by design, he said.
"Usually in years of world indoors, we compete more indoors," Eaton said. "Also, the Olympic year I think we compete more."
Another world record in the heptathlon seems possible in the March 17-20 world championships.
"I don't know," said Eaton, who holds the four best scores in the event including his 2012 world record of 6,645 points.
"I think when the competitions come I am always ready to go. I don't think I ever have not been. So I don't see why this would be any different."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)