Brianne Theisen-Eaton

Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton
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Eatons discuss longer runs, retirement, drug testing in Q&A

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Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton never competed in races longer than 1500m in competition before retiring this year. Their farthest workout in training for pentathlons, heptathlons and decathlons was 400m.

But last Saturday, the Eatons ran 6k (3.75 miles) together for a worthwhile cause, World Vision’s Global 6k for Water to raise awareness and money for clean water for children and to encourage physical activity.

The 6k is the average roundtrip distance a person has to walk in Africa to get water, such as Phil, a Kenyan boy whom the Eatons sponsored last year.

Last week, the Eatons discussed the Global 6k for Water and more in an interview with OlympicTalk.

OlympicTalk: When was the last time you ran 6k?

Brianne: A few days ago. We’ve been running quite a bit. We never used to run like that. But since we’ve been retired, we’ve been going out and doing our own runs.

Ashton: Last week, probably. I think Brianne’s run a little bit further than I have. I haven’t really run 6k.

OlympicTalkAnybody really interesting reach out to you after you retired?

Ashton: Caitlyn Jenner ended up calling us, saying good decision, you guys did well.

Brianne: There may have been some other famous people saying something, but I think for the both of us, it was the overwhelming amount of people who were being very supportive of it. Like people we didn’t necessarily know. That was the most important to me.

Ashton: Brianne got a letter from [Canadian prime minister] Justin Trudeau saying congrats.

Brianne: The Trudeau letter actually wasn’t for retirement. It was for the Olympic medal. But he took the time. At the top it was addressed to Mrs. Theisen-Eaton, and he took the time to cross that out and write Brianne. And there was a hand-written note within the typed letter, and he signed it. I received it in October.

OlympicTalk: Five months into retirement, which of the decathlon/heptathlon events would you be able to get closest to your best times/marks?

Brianne: Probably the 800m. I’ve been running a lot, doing more distance stuff, so I feel like my speed (for shorter events) is totally gone.

Ashton: Holy crap, maybe the discus. Honestly, I think the speed aspect is the thing that diminishes the quickest. It’s the hardest thing to maintain because it was the hardest thing to develop. The discus is the least physically intensive. It’s all kind of based on technique, and I think I might remember the technique to throw.

OlympicTalk: What are your thoughts on the European Athletics proposal to wipe world records before 2005?

Editor’s Note: The Eatons said they were unaware of the proposal, so they answered after a brief summary was explained to them.

Ashton: I don’t like it. You can’t assume that everybody was dirty. Unless you know for a fact that those people did something before 2005, you can’t just like, retroactively, arbitrarily, wipe out everything. That’s like going back and wiping out all the history books that didn’t have some form of peer review beforehand.

Brianne: I agree with Ashton. It’s not fair, because what if there’s even just one person in those however many performances that was clean, and he or she gets that taken away from them? I don’t think that’s fair, but at the same time I’m pretty confident that a large majority of those [records] are probably dirty.

Ashton: It’s going to be really hard to break the women’s 800m [laughs].

Brianne: Or the women’s 400m is pretty insane, too.

OlympicTalk: Ashton, the proposal states that drug-testing samples from world records must be stored for 10 years. Which brings up questions about testing at non-championship meets. When you set the decathlon world record for the first time at the 2012 Olympic Trials, were your samples stored?

[Editor’s Note: Eaton rebroke the world record at the 2015 World Championships. The IAAF does store samples from global meets since 2005.]

Ashton: This brings up the point of the transparency of the whole process. I don’t understand why they don’t just tell people how the [drug-testing] system works. Maybe because people would exploit the system in some way, but it’s clearly already happening. It would kind of give a little bit of information about how it’s done and maybe people can strengthen [the system].

Brianne:  There were even things when we were athletes that we didn’t understand about it. I remember Ashton and I having conversations [saying] they should have three samples, an A, a B and a C, because the athletes should get to keep one [there are currently two samples, an A and a B, that officials keep]. You know when all that Russian stuff was going on, when they were switching samples at the lab, if you really wanted to make it legit, if an athlete got to keep a C sample, so they tested the A and the B, and they both came back positive, they then got to test your C. When you knew it was in my possession the whole time, there’s no way the samples could have gotten switched.

When we started talking to people about this, is this a possibility, would this be a good idea, we found out that at least in North America, they won’t open your B sample until you’re physically there in person. And if it looks like there is any tampering with the bottle, the whole sample is completely thrown out. That is something we didn’t even know was a procedure.

OlympicTalk: Pick one athlete in an individual event you would have liked to compete against.

Ashton: I would have loved to run against [Usain] Bolt. I think that just would have been fun, to see how much he would have dusted me by. I was supposed to in Ostrava [Czech Republic last year], but I pulled my quad. I knew I would never get another chance. I was pretty disappointed.

Brianne: I’ve always wanted to do pole vault, and no one would ever let me. The track events are always a little bit cooler when you’re actually competing against somebody because you’re doing it at the same time. The field events are a little bit different. Have I said anyone [to you, Ashton]? I’m not sure. I’d have to think about it.

OlympicTalk: We know that retirement isn’t official until you pull out of the drug-testing system. Have you done that, and if so when?

Brianne: About a month after we announced our retirement. We announced it, and then there was media and a lot of other stuff to do with our federations, the process of sending us the letters we have to sign to say that we’re retired. It took a little while.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympian takes in buzz after viral 40-yard dash

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Simone Biles, more Olympians attend Golden Globe Awards (photos)

Aly Raisman, Simone Biles
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A bevy of Olympic champions, headlined by Simone Biles, attended the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sunday night.

The list of Olympians on hand covered three sports and three countries:

Simone Biles, Gymnastics
Aly Raisman, Gymnastics
Madison Kocian, Gymnastics
Danell Leyva, Gymnastics
Nadia Comaneci, Gymnastics
Bart Conner, Gymnastics
Conor Dwyer, Swimming
Haley Anderson, Swimming
Ashton Eaton, Track and Field
Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Track and Field

Images via Getty and AP:

MORE: How Adria Biles dealt with Brazilians mistaking her for Simone

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: (L-R) Gymnast Danell J. Leyva, Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci, gymnast Aly Raisman, Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Simone Biles, swimmer Conor Dwyer, gymnast Madison Kocian, a guest and football player Colton Underwood attend HBO's Official Golden Globe Awards After Party at Circa 55 Restaurant on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: (L-R) Gymnast Danell J. Leyva, football player Colton Underwood, gymnast Simone Biles and gymnast Aly Raisman attend HBO's Official Golden Globe Awards After Party at Circa 55 Restaurant on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images)

Aly Raisman, from left, Simone Biles and Madison Kocian arrive at the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 08: (L-R) Swimmer Conor Dwyer and gymnast Simone Biles attend the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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

Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton
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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

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