We can all agree that making it to the Olympics is no small feat. And if you’re a heptathlete, having to execute seven events over two days could garner you Zeus-like status. But newly minted Olympia Brianne Theisen-Eaton downplays her multi-sport event, heptathlon. ‘Heptathletes aren’t strong in all of their events,’ says Theisen-Eaton. And she considers the entire sport to be one single sport, instead of seven separate components. ‘You only get one medal after all,’ Theisen-Eaton says.
Modesty aside, heptathletes are considered some of the greatest athletes, and the 27-year-old bronze medalist is the best female athlete in her sport in Canada. Brianne and her husband Ashton Eaton, an American world record holder in both heptathlon and decathlon and an Olympic decathlete, together share a unique space in the world of track and field.
As a child, her mom Kim says, ‘she was always on the go and never stood still. At the grocery store she’d promise to hold on to the cart, but as soon as we’d get inside she’d take off down the aisle.’ And she never stopped moving. Always involved in various sports as a kid, she showed a special spark for track and field, and was approached by her coach in her hometown of Humboldt, Saskatchewan to focus on heptathlon.
Kim’s advice for active kids: If they want to try something new, help them find what they enjoy and pursue it. Keep them busy with sport or whatever activity they like. Be there for them when they suffer letdowns. And, be sure to always communicate.
We were strict but we always made time to talk so they knew they could come to use for anything. ‘We would hold weekly family meetings to discuss everything from curfews to sibling disputes,’ says Kim.
Achieving bronze in Rio proved more challenging for Brianne both physically and mentally. At the end of the first day of competition, her poor performance meant she could be out of the running for a medal. She knew that on day two she had to come back stronger and be mentally prepared for a podium finish. She fought back to score 6,653 and secured third place.
She credits much of her mental discipline to the sports psychologist she works with throughout the year. Learning how to manage negative thoughts—whether it’s for a job interview, exam or competition, is key. ‘If I never won a medal, I knew that I’d go on to have a great life with a great husband and family. Don’t catastrophe things,’ says Theisen-Eaton.
Post-Games, the couple has a few planned hiking trips with friends, and will visit Africa to meet their foster child. Then, they’ll continue to train but have no future competition plans. ‘Together we’ll decide to collectively quit or continue on with our sports,’ says Brianne. But first, mom says, ‘we’ll have a little party for her back home in our hometown of 5,700 people…but we can only invite about 50 people.’
Canadian Olympian, Crest ambassador, and athlete who is part of the “Thank You Mom” program, Brianne Theisen-Eaton and her mom celebrate her bronze medal.
Grace Toby is a Toronto-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Best Health, Canadian Living, Chatelaine, House & Home and Today’s Parent. She is currently in Rio covering the Olympics and interviewing the Canadian athletes.
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