Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Eatons elect to retire from track & field...

It was my intent to release the 2016 Mercanator Awards Wednesday for the top performers and performances of the previous year. The 2016 Mercanators will be announced on the blog later this week.

However, the somewhat surprising news (at least to the general public) that two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton (left/photo by Paul Merca) along with his wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, jointly announced their retirement from the sport earlier in the day, caught many people, including myself, in scramble mode.

Rather than rushing to post all the accolades the duo have achieved, I gave some thought throughout Wednesday about what they've meant to the sport from a personal perspective.

As someone who has been around the block a few times in the high level world of track and field, you sensed that there really wasn’t much left for him to accomplish.  After all, he’d set the world record twice in the decathlon, scoring 9039 points at the Olympic Trials in Eugene in 2012, then upping his own standard to 9045 in Beijing in 2015 to win his second world championship.

The same could be said of Brianne, who, while she didn’t quite get to the top of her specialty in the seven-event heptathlon, came pretty damn close, winning two sliver medals at the world championships, a bronze at the Rio Olympics, and an IAAF world indoor title in the pentathlon in Portland last March.

In announcing his retirement, the complete text of which you can read here, he said, ““It has been 10 years since [my first foray in the decathlon] and it’s my time to depart from athletics; to do something new…” 

Eaton wrote. “To my supporters and sponsors, the things I have achieved were achieved together with you. At times when I was doubtful, you believed. And if I was confident, it was also because you believed. Thank you for the love and support.”

Brianne (above/photo by Paul Merca) wrote, “I no longer have the passion for track and field or the heptathlon that I used to because I know I can’t advance any further in the sport; I’ve given it all I can, and I refuse to come back and half-ass it because I love and respect this event and sport too much. With that, I’ve decided to retire. It’s time to move on to my next passion, the next thing in the world I hope to make an impact in.”

I feel fortunate to have watched the couple go through the ranks during their time as undergrads at the University of Oregon. especially when the Ducks came up to Seattle to compete at the Dempsey Indoor. I always enjoyed following them around the floor of the Dempsey, whether they were competing in a multi-event, or in an individual field event. It was certainly a pleasure to conduct post-meet interviews with them over the public address system, even when they became the best athletes in their specialties.

Ashton Eaton sets the decathlon world record at the 2012
US Olympic Trials with a score of 9039 points (Paul Merca photo)
The most important thing that I got from being around them over the years was that even when they became the big names that they were in the sport, they were still just Bri and Ashton, two of the most humble and gracious people you could associate yourself with.

Ash & Bri, I know you two will be successful in whatever endeavors you decide to pursue. 

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