Field of Play: Two big stars for Toronto 2015 | Sports | CBC Sports

Pan Am GamesField of Play: Two big stars for Toronto 2015

Posted: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 | 08:55 PM

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Brianne Theisen Eaton, left, from Humboldt, Sask., and her husband Ashton Eaton speak to reporters in Toronto on Tuesday. (Lori Ewing/Canadian Press) Brianne Theisen Eaton, left, from Humboldt, Sask., and her husband Ashton Eaton speak to reporters in Toronto on Tuesday. (Lori Ewing/Canadian Press)

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When it comes to athletics, there is no more prestigious power couple than multi-sport superstars Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Humboldt, Sask., and husband Ashton Eaton.

When you're trying to put on a good show, it always pays at the box office to get a notable headliner on the marquee. A pair of them might be even better.
 
In other words, you might be looking for both a strong male and female to play leading roles.

And when it comes to athletics, there is no more prestigious power couple than multi-sport superstars Ashton Eaton of the United States and Canada's own Brianne Theisen-Eaton.

All signs are pointing to the fact that this impressive husband and wife will be just two of the track-and-field titans that Toronto can count on when it comes time to host the Pan American Games next summer.

300-eatons-140603.jpg"The year before the Olympics is the building block," said Theisen-Eaton, who hails from Humboldt, Sask.

"The ability for this country to see our best athletes on home soil is huge.  It is an incredible opportunity."

Theisen-Eaton has just returned from Europe and the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, Austria, where she set a new Canadian heptathlon record of 6,641 points but relinquished her title, finishing as runner-up to Great Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Theisen-Eaton will encounter her again at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, later this summer.

"Multi-sport athletes are a different breed," Theisen-Eaton figured. "Having the ability to do something different every day is incredible. 

"The lifestyle of the unknown and the many challenges I face keeps me sane because nothing is ever the same. I am never bored."

This emerging Canadian phenomenon and world championship silver medallist is never boring, either. Neither is her incredibly accomplished husband, who she met at the Pan American junior championships in 2007.
 
Ashton Eaton is the Olympic and world champion and world record holder in decathlon, staking a claim to being the planet's greatest all-around athlete.

"The event chose me because I want to experience everything I can," Eaton calculated. "I don't want to be just a runner, I want to be an athlete. 

"There is something in track and field for everybody - men, women, young and old. You can run, jump and throw and, most of all, it's fun."

Still, with the world championships in Beijing following immediately on the heels of TO2015, both of them might be forgiven if they chose to give the Pan Am Games a pass in a pre-Olympic year. But that's not how these ultra-competitive creatures operate.

300-eatons-140317.jpg"Any championship that I pursue is important," Eaton explained. "I can't go to the ultimate level until I've been on that stepping stone. 

"As I look to Rio 2016, I see Toronto in 2015 as part of the journey."

It's a message that both frequently take to aspiring track stars whenever they encounter them, as they did in meeting kids from the Toronto Boys and Girls Clubs during their visit.

"Sport is about what young people may begin to understand about what they can do in their lives," Theisen-Eaton said. "Sport is about what they can achieve."

Eaton looked admiringly at his wife as she spoke. They live and train together and pursue a life which is all about sport. And in her, he sees the ultimate competitor and a comrade in one of the most ancient and often unheralded athletic paths.

Multi-sport athletes grind it out over two intense days of competition. They sprint, hurdle, leap, jump, throw and go the distance. The specialists get all the limelight, but it is they who, most of all, push the limits of what the complete athlete can do.

"She is laser-focused," Eaton chuckled. "She takes great joy in training and her diet and going to sleep at night, so that she can get stronger and faster."

'Essence of life is to contribute'

It is, to this observer, a joyous thing to encounter self-described professional athletes who are in the game for much more than the potential riches of a lucrative contract.

"Many young people I know are attracted to the more famous sports because of the things that the sport may give them: fame and money," Eaton reckoned. "But to me, the essence of life is to contribute.

"We have this innate want to advance and progress. I have that want also and my world just happens to be track and field."

Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Ashton Eaton are much more than a power couple. They conjure up images of the way things used to be.

That is to say, they appear to be athletes who compete for that which is, essentially, pure. They want to take to the field of play and see if they can win.

In terms of the kind of talent that TO2015 can hope to attract in the weeks and months ahead, perhaps they're also the shape of things to come.

Follow Scott Russell on Twitter @SportsWkndScott and @TheFieldofPlay

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