Ashton Eaton: The man and his marriage have got the ultimate winning formula

The champion decathlete is happy to be back in London for Sunday’s Anniversary Games ahead of cheerleading for wife Brianne at the Commonwealth Games

athletics correspondent

There is seemingly no off switch for Ashton Eaton’s competitive instincts. After all, this is a man who admits that even brushing his teeth with his heptathlete wife Brianne Theisen-Eaton can turn into a race.

Admittedly, the American’s competitive streak has been used to good effect. It gives him the ability to make the decathlon look like a breeze – he even described the 10-discipline event as “easier than you’d think”. He is the greatest  all-round athlete in the world, one of only two men to have passed the 9,000-point mark in the event, and Olympic and world champion.

But following that latter triumph in Moscow a year ago, he was, by his own admission, left “feeling destroyed”. He says: “At the beginning of last season I felt decent but I got hurt for the first time since college – some strain behind the left knee – and I competed hurt all year. It was a struggle mentally, a struggle physically. It was just nice to be done at the end of it all.”

It left the 26-year-old feeling like he had already peaked and he had little more to offer an event he has made his own since that Olympic year.

“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can get better’,” he admits looking back. “It had been a long three years. But that’s changed. I feel like I can improve in every discipline, even just a little.”

So where has the extra belief come from? In Eaton’s case, it has to do with the 400 metre hurdles, an event often referred to as a “man killer” but one this year he has been simply doing “for fun”.

He says: “It’s like I’m not even competing like a professional track and field athlete. There’s no mental stress, just travelling around the world having fun.”

It comes as no surprise to those who have watched him that he is also very good at what he does. “In Paris,” he says, “I got my ass kicked.” But at the Diamond League in Oslo he was victorious, while in Glasgow last weekend he was second, beating Olympic champion Felix Sanchez in the process with a personal best of 48.69 seconds – only five athletes have gone quicker this year – a fitting last hurdles race before returning to multi-eventing.

Eaton on his way to gold at London 2012 (Getty) Eaton on his way to gold at London 2012 (Getty)
This weekend, he will take part in just one more individual competition, the long jump at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at Horse Guards Parade and The Mall, before returning to training in Belgium with his Canadian wife and coach.

For Eaton, London will always be a special place, the scene of his Olympic triumph in 2012 and his wife’s silver behind Jessica Ennis-Hill. “It’s going to be a special experience,” he says. “Brianne and I shared some life-changing experiences there. It’s one of the great capitals of the world and you don’t get the chance to visit it that often. It’s going to be good.”

For the rest of this year, though, Eaton’s real focus will be on playing the role of cheerleader as Theisen-Eaton – the couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Sunday – bids to upset British hopes in the Commonwealth Games heptathlon.

She had led the prestigious Hypo-Meeting in Götzis earlier in the summer only to be pipped by GB’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the 800m finale by 41 points, and the event is very much being seen as a battle between the two double-barrelled athletes.

“Brianne loves the challenge and, after her battle in Götzis with Katarina, she was like ‘right, I want to beat her at the Commonwealth Games’,” he says. “We’ve seen Katarina put in some amazing performances this season so it should be a great battle.

“She’s just the latest in a line of talent. You’ve obviously got Jess and also Morgan Lake. It’s an impressive pedigree.”

Lake has opted for the World Juniors while Ennis-Hill is about to give birth to her first child. Does he believe Ennis-Hill will return to the peak of her powers from next season and beyond? “That all depends on her,” he says. “It’s not going to be because of a lack of athletic ability, as we’ve seen what she can do. It will just depend on her mental position. Will she be distracted by having a kid, will she not be 100 per cent focused as before, will she still care as much?”

It is a question Ennis-Hill herself doesn’t even know the answer to. As for Eaton, the focus and competitive desire going into 2015 is stronger than ever.

The world’s best athletes will take part in the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games at Horse Guards Parade and The Mall on Sunday. Tickets are available for this unique event via britishathletics.org.uk or by calling 08000 556056

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss