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Garrett Scantling, from Episcopal School of Jacksonville, places fourth in Olympic decathlon

Clayton Freeman
Florida Times-Union
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Garrett Scantling of the United States prepares to throw the javelin in the men's Olympic decathlon.

Garrett Scantling's stirring comeback nearly led all the way to the Olympic podium.

Completing his long journey from Jacksonville to Japan, the former Episcopal High School athletic standout finished the decathlon in fourth place Thursday morning at the Tokyo Olympics.

Scantling finished with 8,611 points in the grueling competition of two days and 10 events. Only the margin of 38 points kept Scantling from overtaking third-place finisher Ashley Moloney of Australia for the bronze medal.

Scantling, who entered the day in sixth place, stormed down the stretch in the final two events, particularly his traditional weak point, the 1,500 meters.

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Needing an exceptionally strong 1,500 to race into the medals, Scantling ran 4:35.54 — an improvement of 22 seconds from June's U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. — to earn 709 points.

Canadian Damian Warner captured the gold with 9,048 points, followed by France's Kevin Mayer at 8,726 and Moloney at 8,649. While Scantling cut into the deficit by nearly 50 points in the final race, he came up six seconds short of bronze.

Scantling started the overnight competition well in the 110-meter hurdles, running 14.03 to earn 971 points and climb to fifth in the overall standings.

But he ran into obstacles in the discus, the seventh event of the competition and the second of the day. He finished more than two meters below his best attempt from Olympic Trials in that throw, with a distance of 45.46 meters — a difference of 56 points that proved costly.

Scantling finished slightly below his Olympic Trials mark in the pole vault (5.10 meters, compared to 5.15 in June) before an excellent javelin throw of 69.10 meters. That exceeded his previous effort by nearly five meters and lifted him back into contention ahead of the decisive 1,500.

Despite just missing the medals, the former Episcopal athletic star made history as the First Coast's first Olympic decathlete in a thrilling comeback to the sport.

Scantling, who won the Florida High School Athletic Association championship in the pole vault in 2011, had competed in the decathlon at the University of Georgia.

But after finishing fourth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, missing out on the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro and attempting to enter the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and later the Jaguars, he stepped away from athletics before deciding to return just over two years ago.

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