ATLANTA — At the debut of the decathlon in the 1912 Olympic games, Jim Thorpe was crowned the champion.
"Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world," said King Gustav V of Sweden as he congratulated Thorpe.
Since then, winning the decathlon has been synonymous with being the world's greatest athlete. In the competition for the crème of the crop of the track events, there's no space for women to take part.
Instead of the 10 endurance-filled events, women compete in the heptathlon, which consists of seven events.
Williams also told the publication that she thinks the three added events create a whole new strain on athletes. Among the events added is the 1500-meter race.
She said the athletes participating in a decathlon look like they "have been massacred" at the end of the event and in her opinion, that's mostly due to the three additional events, according to the Times.
In 1928, when the women's track and field events entered the Olympics, women competed in three races and two throwing events, including an 800-meter race.
The physical exhaustion led to numerous athletes collapsing at the finish line. After raising concerns of whether women were physically able to run that far, the games eliminated the 800-meter race.
"The men collapsed just as much," said Pat Winslow Connolly to the New York Times.
The three-time Olympian was the first American woman to compete in the 800-meter race when it returned to the Olympics in 1960.
Twenty years later, the heptathlon replaced the pentathlon at the 1984 games.
Athlete Jordan Gray hopes to see the decathlon expand its eligibility to women. According to the New York Times, the sport is approved by governing boards like the International Association of Athletics Federations and the U.S.A. Track & Field.
Gray currently holds the highest decathlon score of any woman active in the sport and the American record. All Gray wants is an equal chance to compete in the Olympic games.
Her petition "Let Women Decathlon" has accumulated over 20,000 signatures.
"Women were also said to be incapable of: running a marathon, voting, full-court basketball, owning a property, pole vaulting, holding office, running a mile," Gray said on the petition's website.
Gray, along with other woman decathletes, hopes for a change in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.