Olympic power couple Brianne Theisen-Eaton and Ashton Eaton announced their retirement from track and field on Wednesday. Saskatchewan's Theisen-Eaton won bronze for Canada in the heptathlon in Rio, while Eaton, an American, defended his gold medal in the decathlon.
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Following their announcement, CBCSports.ca spoke with Theisen-Eaton about when she knew she was done competing, what the future holds for her and her husband, and her thoughts on the state of athletics in Canada.
CBCSports.ca: During your three months off after Rio, did you consider taking just a year off and then coming back to compete?
Brianne Theisen-Eaton: No, because I could just tell that I was ready to be done. I didn't have the passion for it. I didn't feel like I had any goals that I wanted to accomplish. I mean, one thing that I didn't get was a gold medal from the world championships, but I didn't feel the fire for wanting to achieve that. I just know that if I took a year off, I would find the next thing in life and I wouldn't be interested in coming back to track and field.
CBCSports.ca: The announcement was a joint one with Ashton. Did your decision to retire influence his or vice versa?
BTE: I think we actually kind of both came to it on our own. We didn't talk about it for the three months after the Olympics when we were just taking some time off. We didn't want to make a decision based on fatigue or anything like that from the Olympics. So, we didn't think about it.
I went for a run one day and it just hit me like a truck, like a gut feeling that I didn't want to do this anymore. I didn't feel excited about the thought of going back to practices. I didn't feel like there was anything left I wanted to accomplish. And then that evening we were sitting at dinner and Ashton told me that he didn't want to do track and field anymore.
I was shocked — not at the fact that he didn't want to do track and field anymore — I was shocked that those two things happened on the same day. I remember I told him about the run, but I also said I just needed to think about it a little bit more because that was the first feeling I had of retirement, so I wanted to let it sink in. So I took a couple of weeks and talked to people and just made sure this was the right decision. The more time that went on, the more I knew it was the right decision to make.
CBCSports.ca: Is there anything in the immediate future you'll be devoting your attention to?
BTE: I'm still trying to figure that out a little bit. I am passionate about food and food education and educating people on healthy lifestyles and healthy eating. I do think the food industry is giving a lot of misleading information, and I've read a lot of books and educated myself a lot on that and I want to share that with people. Just from being in the sport and learning how to eat healthy and coming up with quick and easy recipes that you can make at home, I just want to share all of that with people. I'm not 100 per cent sure how yet, I think I will transition the WeAreEaton website into it, but we're still working on that for right now.
CBCSports.ca: What about coaching?
BTE: Neither of us are interested in any kind of coaching. I think we've seen as athletes the amount of passion and work that goes into being a coach and I just don't think either of us have that talent to be honest. I do believe we'll be involved in the sport in some way, not necessarily as a job, but maybe as a voice for athletes or something like that. But yeah, not at a coaching level.
CBCSports.ca: What do you think the future holds for Canadian track and field? Is it in good hands with the athletes and Athletics Canada?
BTE: Well, we're seeing the organization change quite a bit right now with the dismissal of our head coach [Peter Eriksson] who I think did...I mean, he changed quite a bit but he did a lot of really great things. He gave a lot more money to the athletes so that we could go to training camps and things that we wanted and that is a huge thing for athletes, just the freedom and not being micro-managed which was a huge asset to me and my team in training. And just the support that they gave me through these last four years was incredible. So I don't know how the structure's going to look like now that he's gone, I guess we'll have to wait and see.
But as far as the athletes, that is the hardest thing for me about retiring, leaving all my teammates because they're all such great people. We got along so well, there were no cliques, there was nobody that didn't get along and I think just having a team full of athletes like that who are all supportive and just genuinely good people and hard workers, I think no matter what, the athletes will do well.
We're seeing such a strong period in Canadian track and field right now and if more athletes with their kind of personalities come along, I think it will all be okay.