08/12/2013 04:34 EDT | Updated 10/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Canadian Brianne Theisen stands fourth through first day of heptathlon

MOSCOW - One day after Ashton Eaton won his first world title in the decathlon, his new wife is in the running for a medal in the heptathlon.

Canadian Brianne Theisen Eaton, a native of Humboldt, Sask., who married the American Olympic decathlon champion last month, was fourth Monday after the first day of the seven-discipline event.

"I watched Ashton win the gold, but I switched the TV off as soon as the result was announced," said Theisen Eaton, 24, who attended the University of Oregon with Eaton. "I was just trying not to get too excited and to get the needed sleep."

The heptathlon at this year's world championships is wide open because of the absence of Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill and defending champion Tatyana Chernova. Both are out injured.

That gave Ganna Melnichenko of Ukraine an opening, and she took it, amassing 3,912 points at Luzhniki Stadium. Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands is second with 3,837 points, followed by American Sharon Day third with 3,836.

Theisen Eaton is fourth with 3,810 points.

"I would have liked it to go a little bit better," she said. " It was solid throughout, but I'm disappointed with my 200-metres.

"I got sick Saturday morning, managing that has been stressful. No excuses though, going to come out swinging (Tuesday). I was limiting my warmups to not get exhausted."

With her husband watching from the stands, Theisen Eaton jumped out to a quick lead after finishing the opening 100-metre hurdles with the fastest time of the day, 13.17 seconds. But she soon dropped to second after the high jump and then fourth after the shot put.

A strong run in the 200 kept her well within striking distance of the medals.

"The highlight of the first day for me was probably the hurdles," Theisen Eaton said. "I was nervous before the high jump.

"I think I just put too much pressure on myself, I didn't even know why."

The three remaining events are set for Tuesday, with the long jump and javelin in the early session and the closing 800-metre race in the evening.

Melnichenko is hoping still to be the one everyone is chasing by the final race.

"Tomorrow I want to get a good result in the long jump. I know that my javelin isn't great and I can't really do anything about it at that point," Melnichenko said, then made light of her situation.

"I'd better compete in a six-event competition rather than in the heptathlon."

Also on Monday, Alex Genest of Lac-aux-Sables, Que., and Matthew Hughes of Oshawa, Ont., both advanced to the 3,000-metre steeplechase final. The last time a Canadian was in a world championship steeplechase final was 1991 when Graeme Fell was 14th in Tokyo.

Hughes set a personal-best by almost five seconds in the first heat of the 3,000-metres steeplechase. His time of 8:16.93 placed second in the heat.

"I was confident, did the work all season, I've been ready to run that fast all year, just needed the right race," he said. "I was able to stay near the front and stay out of trouble.

"I feel like I can run with pretty much anybody in the world, I really wasn't worried about splits or time, it was all about competing."

Genest's qualification didn't come without controversy. After finishing in 8:24.56, Genest was disqualified for a lane infringement prompting an appeal from Athletics Canada. A video review was inconclusive and Genest was re-instated and advanced to the final.

"No words can express how satisfied I am," he said. "I am very proud of what I've accomplished over these last 10 years to get to this point.

"This is very special."

Vancouver's Chris Winter was eighth in his 3,000-metre steeplechase heat and didn't qualify. Noelle Montcalm of Windsor, Ont., was eighth in her 400-metre hurdles heat in 57.50 seconds and missed advancing to the semifinals.