Ashton Eaton
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Caitlyn Jenner’s message to Ashton Eaton after decathlon world record

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — One day in September, Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton found his phone and noticed a missed call and voicemail from a number he didn’t recognize.

He listened.

“Hey, this is Caitlyn,” the message began.

Caitlyn Jenner, who won the 1976 Olympic decathlon title as Bruce Jenner, called again shortly thereafter and this time did reach Eaton.

Less than a month earlier, Eaton repeated as World champion and broke the decathlon world record in Beijing. Also at Worlds, Eaton’s wife, Canadian Olympian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, earned her second straight silver in the heptathlon.

That’s why Jenner called, twice.

“She just said, ‘You know what, I just wanted to say congrats on the Worlds to both you and Brianne,’ which was very cool, and, ‘I thought you guys did great,'” Eaton recalled Monday.

Eaton couldn’t remember the last time he and Jenner, two of six living U.S. Olympic decathlon champions, had spoken. Though they are on good terms.

They also talked leading up to the 2012 Olympics, and Eaton believed more recently, but not since Jenner’s Diane Sawyer interview and Vanity Fair cover story last spring.

Eaton’s coach, Harry Marra, said Jenner called him a few hours after Eaton completed his two-day, record-breaking decathlon performance in Beijing.

“She woke me up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Marra told CBS Albany in New York, near his hometown, last month. “‘Hey, I saw Ashton won, tell me about it.’ Decathon guys, people stay together. It’s a fraternity.

“Caitlyn and I have known each other since 1971, still remain friends, talk quite often.”

Jenner was the last decathlete to break the world record outright at the Olympics in 1976.

In 1984, Daley Thompson repeated as Olympic decathlon champion with a score that would later be fixed to tie the world record, then become the world record when a new scoring table was implemented in 1985.

Back to that September phone call. Jenner joked after the congratulations.

“The only thing is, you fell down at the end of the 1500 [meters],” she joked, according to Eaton. “She was like, ‘You’ve got to be tough. The U.S. never falls down at the end of the 15.'”

Eaton was so drained by the end of the 1500m, the 10th and final event, that he tumbled to the ground two steps after crossing the finish line in 4:17.52. He knew before the race that he needed 4:18.25 to break his world record.

The time was well off the 4:14.48 he clocked to cap a world record for the first time at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., attended by Jenner. Eaton did not fall then.

But Eaton competed in Beijing under tougher circumstances than in Eugene, the pressure of a global championship, his first decathlon in nearly two years and in warmer weather.

He had trouble holding up an American flag on his victory lap at the 2008 Olympic Stadium.

“I was waving at people, and just raising my arm, it was going lactic,” Eaton said. “It was the weirdest thing.”

Eaton said he had fallen after a decathlon 1500m once before, at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

“Trials was different,” Eaton said. “I couldn’t go any faster, but I had more energy, if that makes sense. I didn’t expend it all. I just couldn’t go any faster. Whereas in something like Daegu and Beijing, I think because the days are so long, I’m using every last bit just to stay up.”

In Daegu, Eaton was also chasing a time. He needed to beat Cuban Leonel Suarez by about five seconds to overtake Suarez for the silver medal behind American Trey Hardee.

Eaton ended up beating Suarez by 5.22 seconds in a then-personal-best time and, after 10 events, four points in the standings.

At Daegu in 2011, Eaton took several steps past the finish line and slowly went down to lie on the blue track, as opposed to his quick tumble in Beijing four years later.

Jenner most definitely did not fall after his 1500m at the Montreal Olympics.

“Something I’ve always wondered is, are we really giving our all?” Eaton said Monday. “If everybody gave absolutely everything they had, shouldn’t we all just be crawling at the finish line?”

VIDEO: Eaton covers 36 stadium steps in 6 leaps

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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