Ashton Eaton Remains World's Greatest Athlete
|Gold medalist Ashton Eaton celebrates after the decathlon at the
14th IAAF World Championships on Aug. 11, 2013 in Moscow.
MOSCOW – Olympic champion Ashton Eaton could become half of the biggest power couple in track & field.
He did his part, winning the decathlon at the 2013 IAAF World Championships Sunday to reaffirm his title as the world’s greatest athlete
Now it’s his wife’s turn.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada, Eaton’s bride of less than one month, starts competition today in the heptathlon where she is one of the favorites to become the world’s greatest female athlete
“I’m way more proud of her than myself and she vice versa for me,” Eaton said. “It’s cool to be in the same event and be successful at the same time and be able to travel around the world together.
“If she wins,” said Olympic decathlon expert Frank Zarnowski, “it’s the face of track for a while.”
While Eaton was winning his first world title, Olympic long jump champion Brittney Reese leaped to a record third world outdoor crown to give Team USA two gold medals on Day 2 of competition
“This one puts me in the history books,” said Reese, who claimed Olympic gold last summer in London. "I feel like when I’m out there and I’m having fun, I’m unstoppable."
Reese was hampered by a cold Saturday in the preliminaries and squeaked into the final in the 12th and last qualifying spot.
"I wasn’t the Brittney Reese I know or the world knows,” she said. “Today I was the one that they know.”
Tori Polk finished eighth and fellow American Janay DeLoach Soukup placed 11th.
In the most-anticipated race of the night, Usain Bolt of Jamaica burst past Justin Gatlin of Team USA in a rain-soaked 100-meter dash, with both recording season bests — Bolt at 9.77 and Gatlin 9.85.
“They wanted to see a great race in the rain," said Gatlin, who led until Bolt overtook him with about 30 meters remaining. "I think we delivered that."
“I thought I had it for a second, then you see these long legs coming on my right side,” said Gatlin, who defeated Bolt earlier this season in Rome. “But it felt good to go out there. I’m still healthy. I know I’m going to be competing against him in a couple of more races this season, so hopefully when I get my technique together, there are going to be some great races.”
For Bolt, the two-time Olympic champion in the 100, the world title this time marked redemption. He false-started two years ago in the final at worlds.
In the decathlon, the United States won gold for the eighth time in world championships history. However, Eaton is the only American to win the world title the year after becoming Olympic champion.
“It was the only thing I had left on my list to do,” Eaton said. “Now I have done everything there is to do in the multi-events.”
His wife, however, didn’t see him do it in person. Theisen-Eaton was back in the hotel — out of the heat — watching on television as Eaton racked up 8,809 points, 230 shy of his world record. It was his third-best total.
“She’s seen me win before, so she was just kind of getting ready for her own deal,” Eaton said. “She has a really good opportunity to do really well. And yes, I will be at the track at 8 a.m. tomorrow.”
Theisen-Eaton is ranked fifth in the world in the heptathlon and won at the prestigious Hypo Meeting this season in Gotzis, Austria.
The heptathlon has three fewer events than the decathlon. There is no equivalent for the discus and pole vault and the 200 meters takes the place of the 100 and 400.
“I think watching multi-event is way worse than competing,” Eaton said, “especially when you have a vested interest, because you go through the emotional ups and downs.”
Eaton and Theisen-Eaton, who both graduated from the University of Oregon, met when she came to campus for a recruiting visit. That summer, when the United States and Canada stayed in the same hotel at the Pan American Junior Championships in Brazil, “we kind of hung out together,” Eaton said, “and that’s where we decided we liked each other.”
They started dating in college and got married July 13.
Eaton said he doesn’t have any special advice to give her. “She’s pretty competitive,” Easton said. “She has a really good knack for self-motivation. I’m just there to calm her down if something kind of goes wrong.”
As he began the grueling two-day event in Moscow, Eaton got the start he wanted in the 100 meters, the first event, and thought, “Now I’m just going to coast.”
But after clearing only 6-foot-4 in the high jump — still a season best — he lost the lead to teammate Gunnar Nixon (who eventually finished 13th with a personal-best score of 8,302).
Eaton realized he couldn’t take anything for granted.
“You gotta fight,” he said. “You gotta compete. I think that going into the 400 meters (the fifth event on the first day), I realized that I was just kind of going through the motions. After last year I had such a good year I thought if I just do whatever, I can win. But I realized I couldn’t do that.”
Eaton then ran a sizzling 46.02 seconds to win the 400 and take the first-day lead. “I decided to get competitive again and I tried to carry it into the second day and be my normal self.”
However, Trey Hardee, the two-time defending world champion, and Jeremy Taiwo, the other two members of the U.S. contingent, didn’t make it to the second day.
Hardee had a cramp in his left hamstring and no-heighted in the high jump, while Taiwo suffered a knee injury early in the long jump and was unable to warm up in the high jump.
Eaton started the second day with good performances in the 110-meter hurdles and discus, then jumped a season-best 17 feet ¾ inch in the pole vault. His third-round javelin throw of 212-8 helped him carry a 181-point lead to the 1,500 meters.
That cushion helped him hold off Michael Schrader of Germany, who earned the silver with 8,670 points.
“I told Ashton that he’s unbeatable,” Schrader said.
However, Eaton was feeling vulnerable this year.
“I’m usually pretty robust; nothing really bothers me too much,” he said. “This year little things happened here and there. My coach says the year after the Olympics, you’re physically worn out.”
He was healthy enough to set personal bests in five events this year.
But one day in practice, Eaton felt a little tweak behind his hamstring, which would affect his high jump the rest of the season.
“This year has been different in that we’ve had to do a lot more physical and mental managing,” Eaton said. “In 2012, I really had no physical problems. I think that was why I was able to do so well.”
Another difference is his wedding ring, which gets in the way when he pole vaults. “I have to take it off,” he said, but added that Theisen-Eaton is ok with it, saying, “She allows it for one event."
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 13 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.