Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton
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How Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton came to separate retirement decisions

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Early in the fall, Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton discussed retirement while on a hike.

Neither had chosen to quit track and field yet, but each thought, if my spouse came to his or her decision first, how would that impact me?

“I would have felt bad just leaving him alone in the sport because we’ve always done everything together,” said Theisen-Eaton, the Olympic heptathlon bronze medalist. “I didn’t know what it would be like for one of us to be a normal person and the other not to.”

“What we both determined was, we can’t let that guide our decision,” the two-time Olympic decathlon champion Eaton said Thursday. “We tried not to influence each other.”

Then in November, the Canadian Theisen-Eaton was on a run near their Oregon home when it suddenly hit her.

“Like a truck,” she said, according to CBC. “Like a gut feeling that I didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t feel excited about the thought of going back to practices.”

Theisen-Eaton still wasn’t sure about retirement, so she kept the thought to herself. Until later that night. Eaton told Theisen-Eaton at dinner that he didn’t want to do track and field anymore.

“I remember my mouth dropping open,” Theisen-Eaton said. “I was shocked, but I wasn’t shocked by the fact that he said he wanted to retire, because I knew that was coming. He had expressed to me that year or even the year before that he was finding it hard to motivate himself, and he didn’t love it as much as he used to. 

“But I was shocked because we had not talked about it. It just happened to be that morning that I had a gut feeling that I didn’t want to do it. He told me his reasons why. Then I told him about my run that morning.”

Eaton was not hesitant to speak up, despite their earlier hiking conversation.

“It did cross my mind that maybe if I said this, it would influence Brianne,” he said. “But she took time to decide for herself, which was good.”

Eaton had no doubt at that dinner that he was done. Not only the lack of motivation and passion, but also the feeling that his body was beginning to shut down, according to ESPN.com. Eaton dealt with ankle, hamstring and quadriceps injuries in 2016.

Theisen-Eaton took two more weeks to make sure she would retire with her husband. She called her sports psychologist the morning after the dinner. Among a series of conversations, she was most impacted by one line.

Athletes are the only people who die twice.

The reason you’re second-guessing yourself is because as an athlete your retirement is very hard, the psychologist told her.

“Once you retire, you have to become this totally different person,” Theisen-Eaton said. “You have to create a new identity. You have to find a new community to belong to. You have to go into this world that you know nothing about.”

And death is unavoidable.

“If you do one more year of track, and you’re going to be miserable because you’re not enjoying going to training and you’re not looking forward to the competition,” Theisen-Eaton said, “first of all, you’re going to be miserable for that year, waste a year of your life, and you’re not going to prevent this transition from happening. You’re just going to delay it.”

The Eatons began telling their closest friends and family a month ago. It all led to Wednesday’s announcement.

The reaction, especially from social media, left her in tears.

“Sometimes you don’t really see or understand how many people are watching you on TV or how many people are at home streaming something, how many people are supporting you, how many people care,” Theisen-Eaton said. “I think that really showed [Wednesday]. That’s what made me emotional.”

MORE: Eatons’ coach on their 4 options after Rio

Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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