After two days, and nine-and-three-quarters events, only one man could get Ash Moloney over the line

Cedric Dubler couldn’t win a medal, but he made sure Ash Moloney did.

Moloney was exhausted. He had nothing left after two days and nine-and-three-quarter events. The 21-year-old’s legs were going, but he didn’t know how.

Dubler and Moloney celebrate together after the 1500.Credit:Getty Images

All that was left in the decathlon was the 1500m. Moloney could not let Garrett Scantling, the American who was in fourth place, finish the 1500m more than 10 seconds quicker than him or he would find himself fourth.

Fewer than 10 seconds and he would hang on for the first medal of the Games at the track for Australia. Fewer than 10 seconds and he would hang on for the first decathlon medal Australia had ever won. Hell, we’d never even been close in 70 years.

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Scantling was in front of him with two laps to go. Dubler had been pacing Moloney, running in front of him. He’d been sitting at his shoulder talking to him throughout, encouraging him.

When it got to 500m to go he was screaming at him.

“All I could hear in that last 300 was “just f—— GO! GO! It was pretty unreal I could hear just his voice in my brain and it filled me with energy and I just went for it,” Moloney said.

As a teammate in an individual sport, Dubler has recrafted that idea of individualism. He has mentored Moloney as a young athlete and he coached him on the track in his most important moment.

Critically, he hadn’t gone too early. The 1500m is hard at any time, at the end of two days and nine other events it is brutal for someone who is not a natural distance runner.

Moloney said: “I started hitting a wall at 800 metres and I was a bit concerned but I was like, ‘Just stick to Cedric. Don’t let him get too far away.’ I executed and he screamed like a …”

Dubler interjected: “like a nut”.

Ash Moloney is encouraged by teammate Cedric Dubler in the last event of the decathlon.Credit:Getty Images

“Like a nutter,” Moloney laughed.

Moloney knew if he went too early he would have tired, so he waited until that last lap, the last 300, and did what Dubler told him: he just went. He took off. With nothing left, he found something. He just got quicker and quicker around the final bend and into the straight. He was flying now.

“He had to be (no more than) 10 seconds in front of me so when he got in front of me I got really anxious. I just went anyway. I want that bloody bronze. It was going through my brain that second is a little bit out of my reach but I knew I had third in me and I was going for it.”

These Olympic Games have been marked by fraternity, by the high jumpers sharing gold. This was a moment of similar poignancy for the sight of an Australian athlete taking as much joy in getting his mate to the line and caring nothing for his own finish as the high jumpers sharing their joyful golds. Hell, Dubler screamed himself to a stop. He finished last overall, with two further competitors failing to finish.

“Word for word I can’t even remember what I said,” Dubler said. “I think one of the TV channels had to apologise on my behalf but my job was to just get him through that, keep track of where everyone was and get him to that bronze.

“I was screaming at him so loud in that last 300 I had to stop running to keep screaming and then I started jogging once he was out of earshot and I was counting the athletes as they crossed the line and I knew that he had got it and I ran straight over to him.”

Moloney lying on the ground, Dubler pounded on his chest like Tarzan. He knew his mate had done it.

Moloney, running to the line, had not been sure: firstly if he had won the bronze, and then not sure what to think.

“I was looking at the clock and thinking, ‘Oh crap this is a fast time. I knew I had it 10 metres away from the line’,” Moloney said.

“Across the line I saw I got a PB and I was like ‘Oh, we’re on’. Then I just started crying on the spot. I was like ‘I can’t believe this has happened’.”

Earlier in the day he thought his medal chance had gone. His hand slipped on the pole in the pole vault and he tumbled awkwardly to the mat. If that sounds a little commonplace it wasn’t. He was more than four metres in the air at the time, trying to pivot upside down to fling his legs high and over a 5.10m bar when his hand slipped off and he fell, unsure if the mat would be under him. That is no small mishap.

“I almost stacked it really hard and it really shook me. You may have been able to see that. I was very on edge but I managed to pull through,” he said.

Moloney is 21 and a big, robust, athletic man, until you speak to him and realise he is a shy, 21-year-old boy. He fidgets excitedly. Up close you realise how young he is, which only reinforces how incredible it is for him to win a medal in an event so physically taxing that it rewards the mature body. Moloney is still growing into his.

Moloney won bronze in the decathlon. Credit:Getty

He was beaten into second by the man whose career trajectory he has followed, Kevin Mayer, the French silver medallist who won gold at the world juniors and then went on to be world champion. Moloney too won gold at world juniors and is tracking Mayer’s path to adult gold. He was beaten in Tokyo by Mayer and the imperious Damian Warner, who won gold. He was also beaten by years of strength and experience. Moloney could be anything by the Paris Games. He could be anything by the world championships next year.

“I have been believing in Ash since he was a junior, on my blogs, social media it’s been quite public so it’s incredible to see him come through and perform at the standard that he is capable of it’s just unreal,” Dubler said.

Moloney smiles. A little part of this medal comes down to Dubler.

“I’ll chip off a little, ” he laughed. “He’s very important. He keeps me honest all the time. He always calls me out when I’m being a bit of an idiot. I can’t thank him enough.

“I did dare to dream six months ago but I didn’t think this would happen. Of course we all dream to [win a] medal one day and luckily for me it happened today. It is incredible. I don’t know how to feel. It’s pretty surreal. I don’t think I understand the magnitude of it.

“I have been waiting to get out here for a long time. Now I’m here I got to strut my stuff a bit.”

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