Now retired, the Eatons are taking up snowboarding — even buying their own boards and planning a trip to Canada. The first couple of the multi-events also are welcoming a puppy to their home.
Other than that, two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton and heptathlon bronze medalist Brianne Theisen-Eaton haven’t made many plans. They’re still undecided where they want to live permanently (Eugene, Oregon, for now) or what they want to do.
One thing is clear: Stepping away in the prime of their careers is a permanent decision. The door won’t be left open.
“That thing is a bank vault,” said Eaton, who turns 29 in a few weeks.
Simply too many other passions to pursue. And that’s what 2017 will be devoted to for the couple who met at the University of Oregon and married in July 2013.
“It’s basically a gap year for us, to figure out what we do want to do for certain,” Ashton said during a phone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, a day after the couple announced their retirements in side-by-side essays on their website. “That way, we can dabble in a lot of things. Brianne, she’s more specific than I am. I have pretty broad interests — education, energy, transportation, space. I’ll go see what those things hold and see if there’s a way to make a difference there.”
Ashton sure made a difference on the track, winning gold at the 2012 London Games and defending his title at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He also exits with his world record standing at 9,045 points, which he amassed at the 2015 world championships in Beijing. Brianne, who represents Canada, earned the bronze in Rio last August.
“The Olympics are like a big black hole and only when you pass through it, that’s when you start to see and think about other things,” Ashton said.
Shortly after the Rio Games, this notion of retirement began to hit them. The announcement was a weight off their shoulders.
“Now that it’s all done and we woke up today as normal people, it does feel really freeing and exciting,” the 28-year-old Brianne said. “We don’t know what’s ahead for us.”
And that’s appealing, even if they no longer know how to respond when someone asks what they do for a living.
“We used to say, ‘Oh, I’m an athlete,’” Ashton said. “Now, when we’re on a plane and somebody asks us that, we’ll just say, ‘I don’t do anything.’”
Well, not really.
For starters, there’s snowboarding. Ashton just mounted their boards on a wall at home, reminding them of an upcoming trip the couple will take to Banff, Alberta.
“So pumped, because I’ve always loved snowboarding. But because of the injury risk, I wasn’t going to do it,” Ashton said.
Watch out, Shaun White: the world’s greatest athlete is thinking — kiddingly, of course — about the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
“Pyeongchang in 2018, baby!” Ashton cracked.
His big goal now that he’s no longer competing in 10 events spread over two days is getting more involved in education. Maybe he starts a different sort of curriculum to aid learning, possibly opening his own school.
For Brianne, it’s all about nutrition and cooking. Her ultimate goal would be to start a foundation that assists with childhood obesity.
“We’re basically in the new year, and starting our new life and figuring out that life,” Brianne said. “Just the simple things: Where we want to move, what do we want to do, when do we want to start a family? We never thought about that, because everything was about track. Right now, we have no idea.”
Except for this: They’re soon getting a puppy. She’s a bernedoodle — a cross between a Bernese mountain dog and a poodle — and her name is Zora, which is a nod to American novelist Zora Neale Hurston, an influential author to Ashton.
“We’re getting our lives together,” Brianne said. “The last four years, everything in our lives was made with the decision of how this was going to benefit track. I feel like what I accomplished is the most I’m going to accomplish. I can’t mentally give that much anymore.”
Same with Ashton.
“If I was still passionate about it, I’d continue on for sure,” Ashton said. “The Olympics take a lot of your life force to do.
“You want to spend it on other things.”