Aug. 9, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - When Gonzalo Barroilhet's two-day, roller coaster ride of a decathlon finally pulled into the gate Thursday at London's Olympic Stadium, the former Seminole star had pretty much covered the gamut of emotions.
Barroilhet didn't finish where he had hoped - placing 13th overall - but his stirring second-day charge produced 4,000 points and a quantum leap from where he began the day. That he finished at all was a testament to his fortitude in the face of disaster.
"I would call it a day of near-disaster," Florida State multi-event coach Dennis Nobles said. "In each event, with the exception of the 1500, Gonzalo dug himself into a hole and somehow managed to keep extracting himself."
Nobles was there by his side for the entire ride.
The second-time Chilean Olympian twice flirted with disaster on the final day, which began with him in 23rd place from a field of 31 competitors. He opened with a solid, but not spectacular, 110-meter hurdle run of 14.12 - good for 959 points - that had its own set of rocky circumstances.
"He crashed into the first hurdle with his lead leg, lost his balance, but somehow managed to right himself and continue on for a respectable 14.12," Nobles said. After dodging the first challenge, he nearly suffered a repeat of the ill-fate that ended his 2008 Olympic performance in Beijing, China. Only this time it came in a different event.
Barroilhet fouled his first two throws in the discus and had to settle with a "safe" third attempt of 41.27m (135-4) that netted him only 690 points. Next up was the pole vault, where he has earned the distinction of being one of the world's best among decathletes.
Coming in with the bar at 4.90m, Barroilhet missed his first two attempts before narrowly getting by on his third and final try. Relieved to have avoided a repeat of his "no-height" disaster at Beijing, which had prematurely ended his Olympic debut, the 2012 NCAA All-American made the most of his second chance, soaring to the top performance of all entrants by clearing 5.40m (17-8.50). Instead, he finished with the his best-ever vault in a decathlon competition.
The 1,035-point haul rocketed Barroilhet from 20th to 10th place, pushing his eight-event total to 6,646 points with two events remaining.
The roller coaster of emotions, however, didn't stop there. After two throws in the javelin, the reigning ACC decathlon champion and record holder had a pedestrian mark of 49.09m (161-0), which would have surely knocked him back in the standings. But on his final attempt, Barroilhet uncorked a season-best throw of 57.25m (187-10) to salvage the event.
Entering the 1500m finale with 7,343 points, Barroilhet would need to nearly match his all-time best time of 4:37.04 to break his Florida State and ACC record of 8,024 points. He finished well off that pace (4:48.23) to close the event with 7,972.
"Some days it comes easy and some days you have to grind for everything," Nobles said. "Today was grind, but Gonzalo competed with a great deal of heart."
The day was a bit smoother for Belgium's Borlee brothers - Kevin and Jonathan - who contributed the strong legs to their country's 4x400 relay team. With Jonathan running the second leg and Kevin anchoring, the Belgium quartet qualified for the finals by placing fourth in the first heat (3:01.70) to get in on time.
They will be back on the track Friday for the finals, and unless Maurice Mitchell is tabbed to run on the USA's 4x100 squad in the qualifying heat, will bring the London Olympic Games to a close for the 12 track & field athletes with Florida State ties.