Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton
As good as it is to win a major championships medal, there’s only so much silver that any athlete can take.
Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton has achieved three second-place finishes at the past three global championships. But in March she hopes to take her first global title when she competes in her adopted home state at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
“I’m excited about the World Indoor Championships coming to Portland,” she says. “It is the same organisation that has hosted the World Junior Championships in 2014 and the US World Championships Trials. I have full faith they will do a great job.”
The 27-year-old finished second at the 2014 edition in Sopot with a Canadian record of 4768, a mark she hopes to improve this year. She will be joined in Portland by her husband Ashton Eaton, the world champion indoors and out, Olympic champion, world record-holder and IAAF world athlete of the year.
“Portland is a familiar place,” said Theisen-Eaton. “We are comfortable. It is an advantage to us. We don’t have to travel to Europe to compete. It is short drive from (her training base) Eugene. I like the intimacy of indoors. Fans are right there. It’s more fun, totally different feeling. My mom and other family members will be there.”
In the lead-up to Portland, Theisen-Eaton is expected to contest some individual events in the USA, including Reno on 16 January, Camel City, North Carolina, on 30 January and the Millrose Games in New York on 20 February.
After a busy off season which took her and Eaton to a humanitarian trip to Kenya with World Vision USA, Theisen-Eaton started training on 9 November and added a new training partner, Estonia’s 2008 world junior bronze medallist Grit Sadeiko.
“It is a great addition to our team,” said Theisen-Eaton. “It is great to be able to do workouts together and we are similar runners. We can learn from each other and push each other to be the best athletes we can be. For example, I need to improve my javelin technique and she is a great javelin thrower.”
It is all part of a continual learning process for Theisen-Eaton on her road to achieving her goal of Olympic glory in Rio. One of the biggest lessons, she says, came at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
She arrived in the Chinese capital as the world leader, having set a Canadian record of 6808 when beating Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill in Gotzis. But the Briton came out on top in Beijing after Theisen-Eaton struggled mentally.
“I could not ignore that I was the world leader,” she said. “I was physically ready to go, but the mental part was on how to handle that pressure. Moving forward, I can’t ignore that I will be a contender in Rio. I just need to know to how to deal with it, get the over the excitement or disappointment after one event and focus on the next one, head to your hotel and get ready for the second day.
“It showed me where I need to work more physically for Rio,” she added. “I have a completely different understanding of my event (compared to her last Olympic appearance). I know what I need to work on and what I mentally need to do two or four days before competition.
“We need to figure out the pieces of the puzzle put together. Plan and know what your chances are.”
Aside from her Canadian heptathlon record, Theisen-Eaton says that her other stand-out moments of 2015 include setting a 400m PB of 52.33 and taking bronze in the 4x400m at the Pan American Games in front of a home crowd in Toronto.
“It was the coolest experience to compete at home,” she said of the experience. “It was surprising to see a packed stadium, like we see in Europe. The relay was really fun.”
Looking back, Theisen-Eaton feels fortunate to have pursued her athletics career at the University of Oregon in Eugene with coach Harry Marra.
“I could not have made a better decision (when she chose the University of Oregon),” she said. “After my college years, I did not have to move to another city or change coaches. Harry has adapted his training more focused on post-collegiate career, shifting away from a college mentality.”
After Canada’s best showing ever in the history of the World Championships with eight medals in Beijing, including two gold, Theisen-Eaton is confident her fellow teammates will also do well at the Rio Olympics.
“I feel lucky to be part of this generation,” she said. “In preparation for and during the 2012 Olympic Games, older and young athletes stuck together and a friendship was formed. All these athletes are an inspiration and we support one another.”
No doubt Theisen-Eaton will contribute to Canada’s medal haul in Portland and Rio. And this time she’d like it to be with a gold medal.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF