EUGENE — Team Eaton hung up their spikes in January, when the two multi-event Olympians announced their unexpected retirement from the sport of track and field.
Tuesday, Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen-Eaton, the former Oregon Ducks and longtime Eugene residents, finally got to say goodbye to the community that has embraced and applauded their every accomplishment for the past decade.
A capacity crowd of 300 crammed into the ballroom at the Downtown Athletic Club for the monthly TrackTown Tuesday gathering to give the Eatons an appreciative send-off that included two standing ovations, video tributes from several former coaches and teammates, and enough stories and selfies to keep everyone satisfied.
“Thank you guys for cheering us on for the last 10 years at Hayward Field,” Theisen-Eaton told the crowd. “And for just following everything and just wishing us the best. We appreciate it.”
The track and field power couple was coming off a season that included an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon for Eaton and an Olympic bronze in the heptathlon for Theisen-Eaton. Both also won gold during the World Indoor Championships last March in the heptathlon (Eaton) and pentathlon (Theisen-Eaton).
But after a long break following the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, they decided to call it a career, opting to go out on top.
Eaton, 29, retired as a two-time Olympic champion, two-time World Outdoor champion and three-time World Indoor champion. He is also the world-record holder in the decathlon and indoor heptathlon.
Theisen-Eaton, 28, retired with her hard-earned Olympic medal and as the Canadian record-holder in the heptathlon and pentathlon.
“This is who we’ve been for the last 12 or 15 years and it’s the identity we’ve created and the community that we belong to, so stepping away from that is scary, but at the same time, it’s what we know is right,” Theisen-Eaton said. “One thing we were both told is that it’s always going to be hard to step away, but by delaying it doesn’t prevent you from having to go through that.”
Life hasn’t slowed for the Eatons since their retirement. They’ve traveled, attended the Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles, bought a puppy (a Burmese Mountain Dog-Poodle mix named Zora), and taken up snowboarding, something the Canadian and the guy who grew up in the shadow of Mount Bachelor in central Oregon have become quite fond of.
“Snowboarding is sweet!” exclaimed Eaton, who was raised in La Pine. “Wow, have I been missing out. (But I) couldn’t get injured.”
Professionally, Theisen-Eaton is in the process of transitioning the couple’s website, weareeaton.com, into an education tool for teaching proper nutrition and food education. Eaton is helping a friend put together the BetaCon video game expo at the Oregon Convention Center in April, and is also helping create an app for a fantasy track and field game that will soon be available for Android operating systems.
“It’s been busy,” Eaton said. “It’s been real busy. I was like ‘Oh, we’re going to take some time, figure things out,’ but I think the athlete side kicked in and we needed to do something.”
What that won’t include, however, is any sort of major role in track and field. Neither wants to coach or take on a leadership position in a federation like U.S. Track & Field or the IAAF. That doesn’t mean you won’t see them at the track.
“We’ll always obviously be fans,” Theisen-Eaton said. “And living in Eugene we’ll be at a lot of meets, and we love the Olympics, so we’ll be fans always.”