Curtis Beach had the inside lane and the lead coming around the final turn of the final event of the decathlon, 1,450 meters down, 50 to go.
He looked over his left shoulder at the two runners behind him. He started to veer to his right, opening up two lanes on the inside, then looked over his left shoulder again, and again, his pace slowing. Finally, he waved Ashton Eaton on past.
Eaton hit the finish line first in the 1,500 to a massive roar from the crowd at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He knew what it meant. The crowd knew what it meant. And Beach knew what it meant, as much as anyone. He stepped aside to let it happen.
Eaton set a new world record in the decathlon Saturday in his hometown of Eugene, Ore., breaking an 11-year-old mark, and all the pictures are of him crossing the finish line first, his arms outstretched, his head thrown back in triumph.
When he came up close to me, I knew it was a lot better to let him finish in first, Beach said. I just kind of let him go ahead.
Beach, who just finished his sophomore year at Duke, was smiling as well. He just finished third in a race he was winning by a wide margin only a few steps from the finish line, and he felt great about it.
Beach finished 11th overall, 1,930 points behind Eatons record-setting 9,039, but he took more joy from being a part of the record, which was a triumph not only for Eaton but the American decathletes who train with him and compete against him a collective victory for all of them.
I didnt have too much to gain by winning the race other than going for a personal best, Beach said. To be right there, with Ashton, to have some sort of a role, help pull him along to the world record, that was better. It was a moment for all of us. It wasnt just Ashtons moment.
Since Saturday, Beach has remained in Eugene, waiting for Wednesdays showing of the documentary film about longtime Duke track coach Al Buehler. As he walks around Hayward Field, his display of gallantry has not been forgotten. He said any number of strangers have come up to him to shake his hand and thank him for Saturday.
I think its just a reflection of all the great stuff Ive learned from my mentors and ,y family and friends, Beach said. They always tried to instill great values in me. Something like this is a testament to being around great people and learning from them.
The most significant gesture of thanks came from Eaton himself. Beach had seen others ask Eaton to autograph their copies of the result sheet. As they sat under the stands in Eugene after the medal ceremony, alone in a brief moment of quiet, Beach asked him to do the same.
Eaton got the world record, and a chance to clinch it by himself. Beach got a copy of the results with a simple inscription: Even I wish I could be as graceful as you. Ashton Eaton.
How graceful, to win by choosing to lose.