Roman Sebrle at the end of the Decathlon at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin (© Getty Images)
Roman Sebrle, the 2004 Olympic champion and former World record-holder in the Decathlon, has hung up his spikes. All 10 pairs of them.
The 38-year-old from the Czech Republic had been hoping to compete this year in a bid to record the 50th 8000-point score of his career and qualify for what would have been his ninth appearance at an IAAF World Championships, but finally injury got the better of him.
His last competition was the 2012 Olympic Games in London, his fourth Olympics, but he was forced to withdraw from the Decathlon after just one event, the 100m.
“I prepared for the Olympics last year much more thoroughly than the three Games before,” he said. “But as is often the case, I picked up an injury and I took a few steps back.”
Although the competition did not end in the way he had planned, it was fitting for someone of his stature that the Olympic Games, the biggest sporting stage of all, would play host to what became the final competition of his career.
He had won the Olympic title in 2004, having taken the silver medal four years earlier in Sydney. Similarly, after earning silver medals at two successive World Championships in 2003 and 2005, Sebrle finally struck gold in Osaka in 2007.
He also excelled indoors, and between 1999 and 2007 he won medals at nine consecutive major indoor championships, highlighted by gold medals at the 2001 and 2004 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
But Sebrle will perhaps be best remembered for becoming the first man in history to break 9000 points in the Decathlon.
That achievement came quite out of the blue at the 2001 Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, where he added almost 300 points to his previous best to amass a score of 9026. He was untouchable during those two days of competition, equalling his 100m PB of 10.64 before setting PBs of 8.11m in the Long Jump, 47.92m in the Discus, 70.16m in the Javelin and 4:21.98 in the 1500m en route to his historic victory.
It made him one of the favourites for the World Championships later that year, but injuries to his calf and adductor meant he wasn’t at his best in Edmonton and finished down in 10th.
He rebounded the following year to win the European title with 8800, then successfully defended his crown four years later in Gothenburg. Sebrle also won three European indoor titles, and as recently as 2011 he made the podium at the European Indoor Championships, taking bronze.
Aside from his 18 major championship medals and his World record, Sebrle was known for his incredible longevity and he retires as the owner of the most 8000-point Decathlons and 6000-point Heptathlons in history.
After making an initial breakthrough in 1996 with 8210, he broke the 8000-point barrier every season since, apart from 2010 when he missed the whole summer. Similarly, he has scored in excess of 6000 points for the indoor Heptathlon every year between 1998 and 2012.
In all, he has broken 8000 points in 49 Decathlons and 6000 points in 21 Heptathlons – far more than any other athlete.
His last complete Decathlon was at the 2012 European Championships, where he finished sixth with 8052. He had hoped to compete at this year’s Hypo Meeting in what would have been his 15th appearance in Gotzis, but injury once again got in the way.
“Time is merciless,” said Sebrle, whose World record was broken last year by Ashton Eaton. “I suffered from troubles for my entire career, but these latest troubles reached an unbearable extent. The heel is probably the biggest problem I have ever had.
“I could not do it any more, it is impossible to stop ageing. For the whole season I knew I'd have to say it, but I did not expect it to be so hard.
“I was not always completely healthy, and often carried little injuries. But as I got older, the injuries became far worse. What used to take a month to heal would now take half a year, and I wouldn’t be able to get to the same level where I was at before.
“I just missed out on the World indoor record, but I have no regrets about my career,” he added. “When I think about it, I achieved everything I wanted and I quit completely satisfied. I know I gave it everything.”
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF