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Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Canadian track star, ready to grab spotlight

07/02/2015 02:16 EDT | Updated 07/02/2016 05:59 EDT
For eight years across the track and field world it's been Ashton Eaton and his wife, Brianne Theisen.

He's an American decathlete, Olympic gold medallist, home-state hero in his native Oregon, where the couple makes its home, and all-around good guy.

Now, they're coming north for the Pan Am Games where, for the first time, it's going to be Saskatchewan's Brianne Theisen-Eaton, and her husband, Ashton as she's here for two events in athletics and he's taking a few weeks off to heal some minor injuries.

Kind of like bringing your partner home to meet the parents in front of 5,000 live spectators at the York University track complex in North York, Ont.

"When we're in meets around the world, everybody knows Ashton because of what he's accomplished, and I obviously haven't accomplished as much, so I'm not as big a name," said Theisen-Eaton, on the phone with her husband from Oregon last week.

Not that hogging the spotlight is part of her makeup — she's uncomfortable with it, and also views the two of them "as a team."

Still, it's nice to come home.

"That's what I'm most looking forward to because I don't get to do that a lot. I can come home and say 'this is all the work I've done, this is where I've come since I left Canada and have been training.' "

Theisen-Eaton's development has been rapid:

- She was 11th in the heptathlon (seven events) in London at the 2012 Olympics after finishing second at the Canadian Trials behind veteran Jessica Zelinka.

- By 2013, she was second in the heptathlon at the world championship, helped by injuries to the top two favourites, still indicative of how far Theisen-Eaton had come in a short time.

- In 2014, there was a gold at the Commonwealth Games and silver at the world indoors in the pentathlon (five events).

- Topping the list was a win at the famous Hypo Meet at Gotzis, Austria, this past May with a total of 6,808 points — making her a legitimate contender for a medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. This from an athlete that some thought would never do much better than 6,000.

Most impressed by all of this has been her husband, whose quiet pride in his partner fairly bursts through the phone line.

"I have no idea how good she is," he says, admitting his wife has soared right through his own idea of what her potential was. "Brianne has taken those preconceived notions and just totally blown them up.

"I think she's even surprised herself, and it's just the kind of thing where now, since, she's destroyed so many of those barriers, you refuse to put them up anymore."

He laughed at that, and you can almost hear him shaking his head in disbelief.

No limits

Ashton believes the 7,000 barrier wouldn't be out of the question if Brianne stayed in until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 (only three athletes have ever passed that mark). The world record is 7,291, held by American Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1988).

Theisen-Eaton remembers people telling her that 6,000 would probably be the upper limit, and that, for example, any faster than 24 seconds in the 200 metres wasn't in the cards.

That 200 mark is now 23.34.

It was Austria, in May, that really surprised her.

"I think that was the first time I was like, I'm really going to appreciate this because it literally shocked the crap out of me."

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