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Theisen-Eaton reflects on problems that derailed her heptathlon at world champs

BEIJING — Canadian decathlon star Damian Warner compares track and field's multi-events to golf — when you hit a bad shot, shrug it off and move on.

Brianne Theisen-Eaton says it's not that easy.

The 26-year-old from Humboldt, Sask., won her second consecutive world silver medal in the hepathlon on the opening weekend of the world championships. But after what amounted to a triple bogey in high jump derailed her confidence, it felt more like she'd let gold slip away.

"Imagine if it was the biggest golf tournament you'd ever played in," she said. "How do you put it out of your mind? It's just so hard. Like: 'It doesn't matter. It's fine.' No it's not fine.

"That's the mental part that I struggle with, telling myself it's fine, get over it. I have to figure that out."

She arrived in Beijing ranked No. 1 the world. She still is — her score from May's Hypo-Meeting in Austria was 139 points better than Jessica Ennis-Hill's winning score here.

Theisen-Eaton is putting the performance out of her mind for now, to look ahead to husband Ashton Eaton's decathlon, which starts Friday. The multi-events power couple spent a couple of hours Tuesday morning at Beijing's famous Silk Street market, having two suits custom-made for Ashton.

"He can never find suits to fit him," Theisen-Eaton said — he can never wear pants without a belt, she added, an age-old problem for athletes with tiny waists and muscular thighs.

The couple will head to Japan for a week's holiday, then Theisen-Eaton will turn her attention to the problems that plagued her here, and making sure she learns from them for Rio.

She'd been so solid through the last couple of seasons, her coach Harry Marra calls her the "Consistency Queen." She'd perhaps never felt so much pressure. And she'd never been in the position of having to claw her way back — she was fifth after the high jump.

"I overanalyzed a million things, and nit-picked at everything and that just threw everything off," she said. "Everything unravelled and I couldn't get any sort of rhythm whatsoever. And then everything just made everything worse."

She couldn't clear 1.83 metres in high jump — a height she regularly jumps in practice.

"I didn't even feel like crying, I was like 'What is there to cry about? You sucked,'" she said. "When I look back now — and this is what Ashton told me after the high jump — I never should have been so defeated. I could have had two phenomenal events and I would have been back in the gold-medal position.

"Sometimes it's hard to understand the bigger picture."

There were stories in the press leading up to the worlds about a double-gold performance for the Eatons. Theisen-Eaton couldn't help but think: How cool would that be?

"I know that Ashton's won his gold medals and I know that he's competent and he knows what to do, and I feel like I'm the rookie and it's on me to make that happen," said Theisen-Eaton, whose American husband is the Olympic champion and world record-holder in the decathlon.

"I said to him 'I'm sorry I screwed up and that didn't happen.' He said 'Brianne I don't care, that's the last thing I care about.' That's another want. That would be so cool to say we both won gold medals."

Marra, meanwhile, was much easier on Theisen-Eaton than she was on herself. She was almost unable to finish the event after straining her groin before the javelin.

"She did a great job. Second in the world. Second best in the world at what you do," the coach said. "The beauty of the multi-evens is the kids that rise to the top are street fighters, they keep coming back and coming back."

Perhaps next year in Rio, she said. One thing she takes comfort in is knowing Ashton faced a similar situation at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea. He was the favourite. The pressure wore on him, and he wound up with silver behind U.S. teammate Trey Hardee.

"He always says 'The only reason I won the gold medal in London (2012 Olympics) is because I had that experience in Daegu,'" Theisen-Eaton said.

Warner, Eaton and Hardee will all battle for decathlon medals here. Warner's Canadian-record performance at the Pan Am Games rank him No. 2 behind Hardee. Eaton has been hampered by an injury and hasn't done a decathlon yet this season.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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