TORONTO – Brianne Theisen-Eaton was as fit as she’s ever been and her training was going well – but she didn’t know she had a Canadian-record performance in her last weekend.
“I did,” her husband Ashton Eaton interjected, smiling.
Track and field’s power couple — he’s an Olympic and world champion and the world-record holder in the decathlon; she’s a world silver medallist — were in Toronto on Tuesday, two days after Theisen-Eaton broke Jessica Zelinka’s national heptathlon record.
They’re training partners and life partners and clearly each other’s biggest supporters. While Eaton wasn’t in Gotzis, Austria — the most prestigious multi-event meet outside of the world championships and Olympics — when his wife scored 6,641 points in the hepathlon, he followed the results online and through texts, and was all too happy to boast about his wife Tuesday.
“Oh yeah (I’m proud),” Eaton said. “As far as the win goes, it would have been nice for her to do it again, I knew that she was disappointed with getting second (Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson won). But when you look at the overall picture of scoring 6,641, that medalled in London (at the 2012 Olympics). Not to mention being the best in Canada ever. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Theisen-Eaton’s score would have placed her third at the Olympics, and bettered the record of 6,599 set by Zelinka at the 2012 Olympic trials.
It also set up a scenario that could see two Canadians on the heptathlon podium at next month’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Zelinka, who didn’t compete in Gotzis, posted on Twitter: “Records are made to be broken; a big congrats to @briannetheisen. It looks like I’ve got some work to do! #Rio2016″
— Jessica Zelinka (@JessicaZelinka) June 3, 2014
What’s most encouraging, Theisen-Eaton said, is that there is still room for improvement,
“I had two really bad events, so I didn’t think with two really bad events I’d be able to do it,” said the 25-year-old from Humboldt, Sask. “So that’s a positive, just knowing that if I clean up some things it would be even higher. So I guess I was a little shocked at how high the score was.”
She struggled in shot put and javelin, figuring she probably gave up 100 points in the javelin.
Theisen-Eaton was 11th at the London Olympics, and then won silver at last summer’s world championships. While she’s just beginning to achieve notoriety in Canada, he’s already reached stardom down south.
On the heels of his Olympic victory, he posed nude for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue. He appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman,” was the answer in a newspaper crossword puzzle and was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for “Vogue.”
On Tuesday, the couple participated in a Q & A with 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games employees. They talked about how they met – they first spoke at a party when she was on a recruiting visit to the University of Oregon. They became friends the following summer when they both competed at the Pan American junior championships.
They laughed about how their Oregon Ducks coach Dan Steele tried to keep them apart.
“He said, there’s only two ways this is ending, either you’re going to get married or break up,” Eaton said, to which his wife added: “He was at our wedding. He’s always like, ‘I guess I was wrong.'”
They told the story about how Theisen-Eaton nearly speared her husband with a javelin. Eaton walked out to retrieve his javelin while his then-fiancé was throwing. Her toss took a wild turn. Eaton made like “The Matrix,” with the eight-foot metal missile grazing his upper lip.
They dodged questions about what country their future children might compete for.
“Assuming they do athletics,” Eaton said.
The couple said they plan to become dog owners well before parents. She grew up with a miniature schnauzer. He loves pugs.
They described their training for the grueling multi-events – the heptathlon is seven events over two days, while the decathlon is 10 events – saying what people find most surprising is “how easy it is to train for,” Eaton said.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh my God, you’ve got 10 events or seven events, you must be at the track an hour for each event, seven hours a day, you must train like a million hours a week.’ No.”
Theisen-Eaton added: “When I hear other multi-eventers say ‘I train eight hours a day’ I just think ‘there’s no way. It’s not possible.’ You’d get burnt out.”
During their heaviest training periods in the winter, they’ll train twice a day for about two hours each session. Their training is similar to that of 400-metre runners, meaning there is no distance running.
“The most we run is two laps for warm-up,” Eaton said.
Theisen-Eaton laughingly recalled how coach Harry Mara instructed them one year to do a 10-minute run.
“Ash complained the entire time. We could barely do it,” she said.
While they’re pretty careful about what they eat, they’re not perfect either.
“Every year when I’m done, finished with the season, I come home and go to Tim Hortons and I get 20 Timbits and I’ll eat all 20,” Theisen-Eaton said. “I’ll feel like crap after and think ‘Why did I do that?’
“Another one of our favourite things is Sour Patch watermelon candies. Ash will come home with something, I can tell he’s in a hurry, he has groceries, he’s frantically trying to rip the bag open. So then I’ll come over and try and grab it away and do it … those are gone the instant we open them.”
Eaton isn’t competing in the decathlon this season, since the U.S. doesn’t have a major international competition such as the Commonwealth Games. He’s instead focusing on the 400 hurdles.
“We chose that because the base of all of our training is 400-metre training and we also wanted to do something new,” Eaton said. “I’ve run plenty of 400s, and it’s also something that we thought I could be competitive in, in Diamond League meets and other important meets.”
The two sound committed to competing in the Pan Am Games in Toronto, saying next summer is a key part of their buildup to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
© The Canadian Press, 2014