Ash Moloney has sensationally won Australia’s first medal on the track in Tokyo as the men’s decathlon came to a thrilling close on Thursday night.
Moloney entered the final 1500m event in third place as he sought to claim’s Australia’s first ever Olympic medal in the 10-part event. He finished the run 12th in a time of 4:39.19 and it was just enough to sneak home for bronze.
“F*** yeah!” Moloney screamed as he embraced countryman Cedric Dubler at the finish line.
The 21-year-old — establishing himself as the new pin-up boy of Australian athletics — ran a personal best in the 1500m but when he crossed the line several seconds slower than his nearest competitors there were fears Moloney may have slipped out of the medals at the death.
The Queenslander was just 62 points ahead of fourth-placed Garret Scantling going into the 1500m and while the American was quicker with a time of 4:35.54, Moloney still finished within a close enough range to ensure he remained in the top three.
Canada’s Pierce LePage (fifth) was also threatening to push Moloney off the podium in the final race but the Aussie superstar held on for dear life and because he finished within nine seconds of the North American pair, he secured his slice of history.
It took several minutes after runners had crossed the line for the final scores to register on big screens inside the Olympic Stadium before it was confirmed Moloney had won enough points in the last event to walk away with the bronze medal.
He finished with 8649 points – just 38 points ahead of Scantling. Canada’s Damian Warner won comfortably with 9018 points.
Teammate’s selfless act is an ‘iconic image’
Dubler finished 21st overall but deserves a share of Moloney’s bronze for the way he spurred his training partner on during the final leg. Knowing he was out of medal contention, Dubler sacrificed his own race and ran alongside Moloney to act as a pacer, yelling encouragement and spurring his mate on.
“He had me worried for a little bit then I just started screaming at him and we got him there,” Dubler told Channel 7 after the race.
Moloney opened up on how important his countryman’s help was in delivering him a special souvenir to bring home from Tokyo.
“He was screaming. I can’t repeat what he said. I could hear his voice bouncing in my cranium like a bat out of hell,” Moloney said.
“I started hitting a wall at 800m and I was a bit concerned but I was like, ‘Just stick to Cedric. Don’t let him get to far away’. He screamed … like a nutter.”
Dubler’s selflessness didn’t go unnoticed by Channel 7 commentators Bruce McAvaney and Tamsyn Manou.
“He has been able to help Ash mentally and now physically right to the end,” McAvaney said.
Manou added: “He has been fabulous. He sacrificed his own event here just to help his teammate.”
Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze called Dubler’s sacrifice a “thing of beauty”, while Seven host Andy Maher said: “We will look back, I reckon when the books shut on Tokyo and you look at the Olympic Games and there are snapshot images, iconic images from an Olympic Games. Dubler screaming into Moloney’s ear is going to be one of those two or three-second images that all of those great motivational pieces we get put together with beautiful music, it is going to be one of those pieces.”
Australian cricket great Lisa Sthalekar agreed, adding: “That’s going to be the iconic image … and it should be.”
Moloney dropped a personal best in the 110m hurdles to start Thursday’s action and although discus isn’t his strongest suit, was still only one spot off the leader after his throw of 4.38m.
Moloney cleared 5m in the pole vault and hit a season-best when he launched his javelin 57.12m, but many of his rivals performed better in the penultimate event. Kevin Mayer’s monster 73m throw saw him go from fourth to second.
Moloney was in the bronze medal position going into the final 1500m event and held on to create Australian history.
The young gun performed strongly on Wednesday in the opening day of the decathlon. He finished in a personal best time of 10.34 seconds in the 100m and easily won his 400m heat, hit 7.64m in the long jump and soared to top spot in his high jump group with a leap of 2.11m.