Tate Metcalf figured the total cost of attending the London Olympics would be about $20,000.
The prospect of making the trip was looking bleak for the assistant track coach at Bend's Mountain View High School and longtime mentor of decathlon gold-medal favorite and world-record holder Ashton Eaton, who was raised in Central Oregon.
But some friends came through in an Olympic-sized way for Metcalf, 44, and his wife, Aimee.
Steve Hunt, one of the members of the Sisters Athletic Club, of which Metcalf is the owner, donated his airline miles, saving the Metcalfs about $4,000. Other donations from club members came pouring in, and suddenly the cost of the trip to London was cut in half.
“A lot of people through the club really rallied," Metcalf said last week. “We didn't actively pursue it. But enough people are so enthusiastic about Ashton, and can follow him and support him through me. That's why I said I'm willing to go. It's not 'Let's just send Tate to London.' It's 'Let's support Ashton via Tate.' And over $6,000 was raised — which blows my mind."
The Metcalfs arrived in London on Wednesday. Tate plans to be in contact with Eaton, at least via text and email, throughout the Olympics. In an agreement with The Bulletin, Metcalf will be sending tweets from London with the Twitter handle @BBulletinSports. Look for Tate's tweets throughout the Olympic Games, including during the decathlon competition, Aug. 8-9.
“I'm incredibly humbled and thankful that these people have rallied, and somewhat talked me into it," Metcalf said of his club members. “For years we were planning on it (attending the London Olympics), but we just couldn't gain the traction to make it happen."
The Metcalfs are saving money by staying in a college dorm in London, but they will still spend about $10,000 of their own, Tate estimated. Tickets to the Olympic events are the biggest expense. Through USA Track & Field, Eaton was able to secure access to two tickets for the Metcalfs during each day of the Olympic decathlon, which Tate figures will cost about $1,000 per ticket. A ticket he bought for the second day of the heptathlon, in which Eaton's fiancee, Brianne Theisen, will compete, was $900, according to Metcalf.
“I told Ashton, 'Hopefully by the time the next Olympics roll around, I'll have this one paid off,' " Metcalf said with a smile.
As far as Metcalf is concerned, it is money well spent. He also plans to attend some Olympic events that are free to spectators, including the men's and women's marathon and triathlon.
This is not the first time that Metcalf has ventured a long distance to follow Eaton. He traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, in 2008, and to Fayetteville, Ark., in 2009 to watch Eaton win two of his three NCAA decathlon titles for the University of Oregon.
Metcalf has somewhat of a vested interest in Eaton, who was raised by his single mother, Roz Eaton, in La Pine and Bend. During high school, Metcalf served as Ashton's most dedicated advocate for getting him into college. He was the first one to see young Eaton's potential as a decathlete.
“The spark really hit about halfway through the track season his senior year," Metcalf recalled. “That's when it really hit me that he needs to do the decathlon."
Metcalf, like UO coaches later would be, was awed by Eaton's ability to master a drill or make a necessary change almost immediately.
“That was the thing that really blew my mind," Metcalf said. “This is something so unique, so rare. He was getting things quicker than I've ever seen ... speed and running drills. He just got it."
Eaton would win state titles for Mountain View in the 400 meters and the long jump as a senior in 2006. Metcalf pursued college coaches as if he were Eaton's agent.
“A lot of it was financial, getting him in school," Metcalf recalled.
Southern Cal, UCLA and Washington State said thanks, but no thanks.
Oregon and Dan Steele, then the decathlon coach for the Ducks, saw what Metcalf saw.
“Nobody else really believed the decathlon side of things ... except for Dan Steele," Metcalf said.
Metcalf and Eaton remained close throughout Eaton's incredible career at UO. In many ways, Eaton is the son that Metcalf never had. (Tate and Aimee have no children.) Metcalf remains a father figure to the 24-year-old Eaton, who is planning to marry Theisen next summer.
“Ashton is somebody ... I'd do anything for that kid," Metcalf said in 2008, just before Eaton's first Olympic trials. “I definitely look at him ... he's the closest thing to family as we have."
So the trip to London really is a no-brainer.
But now Metcalf — who grew up in rural South Dakota as a football and track athlete before going on to run middle distances for the University of Northern Colorado — must quell his distaste for crowds and big cities.
“I'm going to have to fully embrace it, and change my ways," said Metcalf, who lives between Bend and Sisters. “But I'm at the freakin' Olympics! For me, being a sports guy and a coach, to go to the pinnacle of sports? Oh my God. I mean, how cool is that going to be?"
Cool for all of us, as we follow Ashton via Tate.
— Reporter: 541-383-0318, firstname.lastname@example.org.