He may not have claimed the title of “world’s greatest athlete” at the 2012 Olympic Games… But Leonel Suárez could be called the most consistent.
Following two non-stop days and 10 track and field events, the 24-year-old Cuban decathlete came away with his second consecutive Olympic bronze medal in the decathlon at the London Games.
Suárez didn’t look like he’d repeat his bronze medal performance at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing at the beginning of the competition, ranking in 26th place after the first event, the 100m dash.
By the end of the first day of competition on Wednesday—after the 100m dash, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m run—Suárez had moved up to sixth, only 121 points from third place.
Suárez returned to Olympic Stadium on Thursday ready to move up the standings. Instead, he found himself maintaining the status quo after competing in the 110m hurdles, discuss throw and pole vault.
But that all changed in the ninth event of the competition, when Suárez claimed a new Olympic best in the javelin discipline of the decathlon with a launch of 76.94 meters on his first of three attempts, smashing his own record of 73.98m from Beijing. His performance in the javelin portion gave him an extra 200 points over almost everyone else in the competition and moved him into third place with only the 1,500m race left.
It was the “dagger in the heart,” according to the coach of Canada’s Damian Warner, who had been in prime position to medal until that fateful throw.
Suárez finished the 1,500m race with the fifth best time of 4:30.08, enough to secure his spot on the medal podium with a final score of 8523.
World-record holder Ashton Eaton of the United States won the gold medal with a score of 8,869, while his compatriot Trey Hardee was second with 8,671.