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Rules of the Game: Decathlon and Heptathlon

It's not about being the best in every event in the decathlon or heptathlon. It's about being at or near the top in enough of them to win the gold.

The title of the World's Greatest Athlete is saved for the winner of the decathlon for the men and the heptathlon for the women. Men compete in ten events and women compete in seven events over two days. How they finish in each of these determines a score. Once all the events are finished, the scores are tallied and the man or woman with the highest score gets the gold medal.

The athletes who compete in the decathlon and heptathlon aren't the best in the world at the individual events contained within them. For example, 2012 and 2016 decathlon champion Ashton Eaton of the United States wouldn't beat the legendary Usain Bolt in the 100 meters -- one of the 10 decathlon events. But, Eaton would surely outperform Bolt the shot put or pole vault. 

So, it's not about being the best in every event of a heptathlon or decathlon. It's about being the best, or nearly the best, in enough of them compared to the other competitors to win the gold. Because of the varied nature of the events, having speed, strength, agility and endurance are all necessary.

Decathlon

Day One

  • 100 meters
  • Long jump
  • Shot put
  • High jump
  • 400 meters

Day Two

  • 110-meter hurdles
  • Discus throw
  • Pole vault
  • Javelin throw
  • 1,500 meters

Heptathlon

Day One

  • 100-meter Hurdles
  • High Jump
  • Shot Put
  • 200 Meters

Day Two

  • Long Jump
  • Javelin
  • 800 Meters