Ashton Eaton still the man in decathlon after year filled with dings, rings, swivel chairs

Ashton Eaton
0 Comments

Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton enters the World Championships a new man, a married man, but with the same title he went into London with — clear favorite.

Eaton, who broke the two-day, 10-event world record at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, last lost a major international decathlon at the World Championships. He took silver to American teammate Trey Hardee in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011. Eaton looks for his first worlds gold in Moscow on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of competition at Luzhniki Stadium.

“I feel just like I did going into Daegu, maybe a little bit more seasoned, a little bit more intelligent,” Eaton, 25, said in a phone interview from Moscow. “But other than that, I don’t really feel different. I feel older. I take longer to warm up. I guess I don’t really feel I have a target on my back or anything like that.”

There’s one big difference in Eaton if you’ve seen pictures of him in Moscow this week: that jewelry on his left ring finger. Eaton married Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen in July, a ceremony replete with a hashtag (#theiseneatonwedding). (a disappointment: “I can’t pole vault with the ring on,” Eaton said. “I tried.”)

Eaton’s finally grounded from a post-Olympic frenzy. He’ll never forget some of the activities. Asked to name a little-known highlight, he pointed to a first-class flight to the Netherlands.

“I’ve never flown first class transatlantic before,” he said. “The pilot came back and talked to us, Brianne and I. There was a line of stewardesses in line to get a picture (of us), right before takeoff. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. What about the safety announcements?’ They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re fine.’ The chairs swiveled. We got ice cream, steak.”

Allyson Felix eyes 200 now; 400 later | World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Eaton won the national championship in June with 8,291 points, well shy of his world record (9,039). That was to be expected in the year after the Olympics, which doesn’t often see too many personal bests in track and field.

Except Eaton did set two personal records in March (javelin, shot put), the same month that a javelin thrown by Theisen in training landed right next to him, grazing his face on the way down.

A minor leg injury from high jump practice forced Eaton out of a meet in Austria in May. Achilles soreness crept up after the National Championships in June. Then his knee gave him problems. Welcome to the life of a decathlete.

“The reason the world record happened last year was that I was in good shape,” he said. “I had literally no injuries.”

Eaton said he could score 8,800 points “without too much effort” on Saturday and Sunday. That would surely be enough to win. Only eight men have ever broken 8,800, and the other seven are not competing in Moscow.

Hardee is the closest rival at worlds. He won the 2009 title in Berlin with 8,790. Also keep an eye on Cuban Leonel Suarez, bronze medalist at the last two Olympics and in Daegu, though we’ve seen very little of Hardee or Suarez this season.

Eaton’s worlds will end Sunday, giving him a week to watch his teammates perform. First comes marriage, though. Theisen competes in the heptathlon Monday and Tuesday.

Theisen, a back-to-back NCAA champion at Oregon, where she met Eaton, could very well medal in the heptathlon. Olympic gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill and 2011 world champion Tatyana Chernova are both out with injuries. Theisen, who finished 11th at the Olympics, is ranked fourth in the world this year among heptathletes entered in Moscow.

“I think Brianne’s chances are really good to win gold, definitely medal,” he said. “She’s super pumped up. … If we both win and got the gold, it would be so cool.”

Video: Carl Lewis airmails first pitch at Astros game

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

0 Comments

Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
Getty
0 Comments

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!