Icing on the Cake

Photo by Hendrik Osula

UGA Decathlete, Skilled Baker and Estonian CAES Student Karl Saluri Competes in Rio Olympics

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences student-athlete Karl Saluri came in at No. 23 in the decathlon for his home country, Estonia, at the Olympics in Rio this year. The third-year food industry marketing and administration major tallied 7,223 points in the decathlon after taking 11th in the 100-meter dash, 15th in the 1500-meter run, 18th in the discus throw, 20th in both the pole vault and the shot put, 24th in both the long jump and the 400-meter dash, 25th in the javelin throw, 27th in the 110-meter hurdles and 28th in the high jump.

His experience at Rio was “hard to describe,” especially since he was newly recovered from a broken bone in his leg. “My goal was just to finish the meet,” he said.

He spent his birthday participating in the opening ceremony with his Estonian teammates. The countries in the Parade of Nations were alphabetized in Portuguese, Brazil’s official language, which put Estonia right after the U.S., or Estados Unidos de América.

“We walked in right behind the U.S. basketball team,” Saluri said. “I’ve been following those guys for the last 10 years, and now they were walking in front of me.”

Saluri was drawn to the University of Georgia by the reputation of the university’s track and field program, as well as by a childhood friend and now-teammate at UGA and for Estonia, Maicel Uibo. He came to CAES to fulfill a dream of opening his own restaurant – one in Estonia, for his mom, and one in the U.S.

“That’s my dream: to have my own restaurant and for it to be successful,” Saluri said. “I know how hard it is to have a successful one.”

In 2015, he didn’t compete due to injury. Instead he practiced cooking and baking, sometimes two cakes a week or “whenever somebody had a birthday,” he said.

The greatest lessons he’s learned through his major are “how to get customers, to make sure they still come to your place, and how expensive it is to get new customers,” he said.

Being a student-athlete and keeping up with coursework is challenging. Luckily, being a decathlete keeps Saluri practiced in multitasking.

“It’s hard to mentally get ready after a hard workout to study or go to a tutoring session,” he said. “But I do decathlon. I do 10 events, so I’m used to a lot. It’s like you have 10 jobs.”

After graduation, he plans on traveling and preparing for Tokyo in 2020. “My goal for Rio was just to go; in Tokyo, it’s to do something big,” Saluri said. “I’m going to work to get a medal. If not, at least I tried.”