2012 Olympics: Ashton Eaton
Can a Runner Be the World’s Greatest Athlete?
Image: Corbis Images
Eaton kept to a rigid routine. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays he worked on his running and jumping events; Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays were set aside for the throws. Sessions were often held on the familiar grounds of Hayward Field and conducted with a familiar face. For his last three years at Oregon, Eaton was grounded in pleasant reality by a teammate and female counterpart in multi-event glory. Brianne Theisen, a year younger, is from Humboldt, Saskatchewan. She is a six-time NCAA champion, a total that includes two outdoor heptathlon victories (2009 and 2010). Shortly after nationals, Eaton and Theisen got engaged, and in the days leading up to worlds they trained together, with Marra watching both like a hawk. (As it turned out, an injury kept Theisen from competing in Daegu; she is expected, though, to compete for Canada at the London Games this summer.)
Simple Tweaks for a Better Race Routine
Eaton admits his training philosophy has evolved over time. “I like to follow the ‘less is more’ approach,” he says. “When I was a freshman at Oregon, I got my butt kicked. We practiced for five hours a day sometimes, and I would go back to the dorm room and just lay there. The next morning I would have trouble putting my socks on, I was so sore and tight. Now we practice twice a day for a couple hours max each session.” And along the way he has done some judicious experimenting. “I find myself more of a naturalist now,” he says. “I’m not sure if that is the right word, but I just trust my body. I firmly believe the body is smarter than the mind. Stay up late so you can try to trick your jet lag? Malarkey. As much as you try, I don’t think you can trick the body.”
The World Championships would prove just that.
In August, he and Marra arrived in Daegu for the worlds, where fellow American Trey Hardee awaited. Hardee, a University of Texas graduate, was the defending champion from the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, a victory that qualified him for worlds without his having to compete at nationals. He stands 6'5" and weighs 210 pounds. The power of his build is evidenced in the flight of his implements. Going into Daegu, Hardee’s personal bests in the shot put, discus, javelin, long jump, and pole vault easily exceeded Eaton’s. But Eaton held an advantage in the five other events.