- Sports Illustrated “Faces to Watch”: Leo Neugebauer
- Leo Neugebauer: German record holder in the decathlon
- The 23-year-old athlete wants to go to the 2024 Paris Olympics
Leo Neugebauer has – or had – a shoe problem, but that’s completely normal for a decathlete. Since a different pair is used for each of the ten disciplines, you not only need a spacious shoe closet, but you also need the necessary organizational skills. So it happened that Neugebauer did not pack his discus shoes in his bag. An episode that the 23-year-old is allowed to listen to over and over again from his friends.
Which is a good thing for Neugebauer. Not just because he has the slack to be on top of things. But above all because success proves him right.
Leo Neugebauer: The best German decathlete of all time
We catch up with Neugebauer for a Zoom call at home in Austin. He had previously been on the road for 24 hours. The pressures of travel, flights being postponed, but someone like him doesn’t let that stress him out. He’d walked in the door five minutes ago—and he was already in a great mood again. And this – among other things – could also be due to this fact: Neugebauer, who has been living and studying in Austin, Texas since 2019, is the best German decathlete of all time.
With a score of 8,836 points, he catapulted himself into decathlon heaven like a rocket in June. At the US Student Championships in Austin, he broke Jorgen Hingsen’s 39-year-old German record (8832) and was on his way to setting a world record until the eighth discipline. No other athlete had more points on his account before the final javelin throw and 1,500 metres.
Leo Neugebauer aims high
His next goal is the 9,000-point mark – and perhaps one day the world decathlon record of Frenchman Kevin Mayer (9,126 points). He has the ideal conditions to achieve this goal. Neugebauer is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Texas, which spends $250 million annually on sports funding. A lot of money to provide athletes like Neugebauer with the perfect environment so they can fully focus on their sport.
The investment pays off. At the Tokyo Olympics, Texas Longhorns athletes won nine track and field medals, five of which were gold. “The sports scholarship I received in the USA provided me with a professional framework,” Neugebauer says. “I can train twice a day. The distances from the stadium to the university and the physiotherapist are short. Many people at the university plan our day so that we can balance lectures, competitions and training.
The decathlete star is a true all-rounder
Neugebauer is a versatile player who is strong in almost all disciplines. He performed particularly well in the discus throw, shot put, over 400 meters and in the pole vault. His running ability has also improved recently. In his decathlon record in Austin, the two-metre-tall man ran the 100 meters in 10.61 seconds. You would almost think that everything would be perfect if it weren’t for the javelin. For a typical athlete this ends at 57.45 metres. “I train hard and try to get a little better in each discipline. This ultimately has a big impact on the overall result,” says Neugebauer.
In Austin he is looked after by three coaches. James Garnham is his head coach. Former long jumper and triple jumper Edric Florial handles the sprinting, while Clint Martin takes care of the strength training. Former decathlon star Trey Hardy (best performance: 8,790 points) also stops training every now and then. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist and two-time decathlon world champion lives and works in Austin and was one of the first to congratulate the court when Neugebauer tallied his 8,836 points.
But things haven’t always been easy for Neugebauer as an all-rounder; He had to wait a long time for his breakthrough in the decathlon. In 2016, a torn hip ligament cost him an entire season.
Neugebauer’s professional career began at the age of six
The Görlitz-born player’s career began at the age of six at LG Leinfelden-Echterdingen in Baden-Württemberg. He also played football, but his heart was always with athletics. At the age of fifteen he completely switched to his favorite sport. “My mother never played sports,” says Neugebauer, whose father is from Cameroon. “And now? Neugebauer dreams of participating in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Neugebauer’s current best performance will not be enough to get the gold medal.” – Where Olympic champion Damien Warner (Canada) scored 9018 points, but as for silver, Neugebauer still has some time until next summer.
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