SOPOT, Poland (AP) — Ashton Eaton won yet another gold and again proved himself a leading contender for the world's strongest athlete.
Yet after winning the heptathlon, all Eaton could do was slam his fist in frustration on the track's side railing. He called himself "weak" because he had missed beating his own world record by just 1.18 seconds over the closing 1,000 meters.
"I don't know, I'm just mentally weak," Eaton said after the race, feeling he had not pushed himself through enough pain and fatigue to break the heptathlon world record for a fourth time.
"I thought I was more tired than I actually was. And to me that is just being weak. I should push through being tired. It is ridiculous," he said.
Eaton was effectively only competing against himself during the two-day seven-event competition, chasing the world record points total he set at the world indoors in Istanbul in 2012.
The defending champion held a massive margin of 329 points over Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, while Belgian Thomas Van der Plaetsen of Belgium took bronze.
Eaton finished the closing 1,000 in 2 minutes, 34.72 seconds for a total of 6,632 points. The record stands at 6,645.
Missed it by 13 points in a 6,000-plus competition.
Still, what he considered defeat, not getting the world record, will teach him a lot. "I am not a robot, but I try," Eaton said.
Eaton still remembers the pain of losing to compatriot Trey Hardee at the outdoor world championships in Daegu three years ago, and went back to the drawing board to prepare for the London Olympics.
"I learned so much from failure," he said. Eaton has not looked back since, winning everything in sight.
Now he intends to take a break from the bruising multi-event disciplines and give himself respite with a season of 400 hurdles.
It is another way to deal with a setback and come back stronger for the 2015 world championships in Beijing and the Rio Olympics the following year.
And, perhaps worst of all, he doesn't even feel the toughest in his own household anymore. Late Friday, his Canadian wife Brianne Theisen Eaton took silver in the pentathlon.
"I tell you what, right now, Brianne is way tougher than I am," he said.
There was plenty of other American success to celebrate on Saturday. In the biggest upset of the championships so far, Nia Ali caught up with defending champion Sally Pearson at the last hurdle and outkicked her for the line to take the 60 hurdles title in a personal best of 7.80 seconds, holding an .05 edge over the Australian.
In the women's 400, Francena McCorory outlasted Kaliese Spencer of Jamaica to add an individual title to the world outdoor and Olympic 4x400 relay titles she already has.
It left the United States top of the medal table with four gold and five medals overall, followed by Russia with two gold.
Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert