By Gene Cherry
SALVO, North Carolina (Reuters) – Athletics’ retired super couple have discovered a new sport but do not expect them to be chasing Olympic medals anytime soon.
Snowboarding is the new call for Ashton Eaton and wife Brianne Theisen-Eaton as they settle into life after years of chasing medals and records in the decathlon and heptathlon respectively.
“We went snowboarding over Christmas and I pretty much fell in love with it. I thought it was awesome,” said Eaton as he and his wife chatted with Reuters via telephone on Thursday.
The outing was the first on a board for the two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist since fourth grade and the first for Canadian Theisen-Eaton since high school when she began concentrating on athletics.
But there will be more along with long hikes, all for fun.
“Next weekend we are going up to Banff Canada to go snowboarding in the mountains for Ashton’s (29th) birthday,” said Theisen-Eaton, the Olympic heptathlon bronze medalist and world indoor pentathlon champion.
The couple, who both now own snowboards, announced on Wednesday they were stepping away from athletics, a sport that has brought them worldwide acclaim.
Oregon native Eaton soared to multiple world records in the decathlon and indoor heptathlon, five indoor and outdoor world championships and in Rio became only the third man to win successive decathlon Olympic gold medals.
Theisen-Eaton, 28, twice won world heptathlon silver medals and claimed the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold to go with her world pentathlon title and Rio bronze medal.
“We are both confident enough in where we finished and satisfied enough with our careers that we are content in walking away from it,” Theisen-Eaton said.
A shared moment last year in Portland, Oregon, where Eaton was born, will be especially cherished, they said.
“Brianne and I both won (at the world indoor championships) and to have both of us go up and get our medals, that was really cool,” Eaton said.
His last Olympic pole vault competition will be another highlight, he recalled.
“I had two misses at 4.90 (meters) and I though, ‘If I miss this next one, it is pretty much done.’
“Then I kind of saw my whole career flash before my eyes … I was tired but I said I am going to put my entire career into this vault.”
He made the height and went on tie the Olympic record of 8,893 points.
Theisen-Eaton remembered the Portland victory and a collegiate championship in the 4×400 meters relay before Oregon fans as special.
Adjusting to life without strenuous workouts and flying around the world to compete has come easy.
“It’s 12:30 (pm) and I’m still in my jammies,” Eaton said.
The couple plans to remain in Eugene, Oregon for the next year, finalizing plans for the future.
Education, transportation and energy fields are all on Eaton’s radar, along with athletes’ rights.
Theisen-Eaton hopes to focus on health-related issues, particularly food and lifestyle.
Neither feels the urge to coach.
They have seen the dedication of longtime coach Harry Marra and “there is no way we could put that much in to it,” Eaton said.
A family and a new community also are in their future
The British Columbia city of Kelowna is an early favourite.
And if Eaton had to pick a successor to his global titles, he would point to Canadian Olympic bronze medalist Damian Warner.
“The best chance right now is Damian,” Eaton said of the Commonwealth and Pan American Games champion who like Eaton is a strong sprinter.
(Editing by Andrew Both)