Cooke shares track with world's finest

HARARE - Moving to the United States was a dream fulfilled for Zimbabwean lone decathlete Keegan Cooke, but sharing the training track with the decathlon world record holder and Olympic champion Ashton Eaton was a lifelong opportunity.

Cooke moved back to the States after completing his university degree at Arizona and determined to take his decathlon career to a higher level, he settled for the Santa Barbara Track Club in California in March.

During his early days at the professional decathlon and heptathlon club, the French national team together with a few multi-event athletes from Canada visited the facility for a six-week training camp.

Ashton Eaton, the decathlon world recorder and Olympic champion, was also part of this visiting group with his coach. Cooke recalls making the best out of that opportunity.

“I met had Ashton Eaton before but this time we were at the same track for several hours everyday and after workouts we would use the pool and get lunch,” Cooke told the Daily News.

“I learnt a lot from him and listened carefully when Ashton and his coach (Harry Marra) were communicating. In conversations, I would ask Ashton questions about his training, I can’t remember the exact question but one day he responded by telling me that every event is connected and I have to see it that way.

“Each movement is initiated slowly and is controlled, then it progresses and this has been the fore front of my mental game this season.”

Indeed, the experience has proved worthwhile for the 26-year-old decathlete, and coupled with the expertise of his coach at SBTC, Josh Priester, the Zimbabwean broke a couple of personal records in his first competition last month.

Cooke had suffered a shoulder injury earlier only to be given the green light to contest last month and in the process broke his personal best long and high jump records during a meet held at the United States Olympic Centre.

“When I spoke with coach Josh for the first time I was on a bus in San Francisco... he told me what was happening in Santa Barbara and that possibly I might be a potential fit for the training group. I nearly jumped off the bus,” Cooke added, thanking his backers:

“There are a lot of people helping us along this journey, but without the help of Ram Petroleum this would have ended shortly after graduating from university. I'm also appreciative of the continued support and interest from Zoc (Zimbabwe Olympic Committee) and the AAAZ (Amateur Athletics Association of Zimbabwe). It will be awesome to help connect associations like Zoc and AAAZ with established professional track and field clubs like SBTC."

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