PORTLAND, Ore. — Brianne Theisen-Eaton sat in third place heading into the fifth and final event of the pentathlon Friday night with little chance at world indoor championship gold.
The Humboldt, Sask. native needed to beat Ukrainian Anastasiya Mokhnyuk by 10 seconds – a massive margin – in the 800 metres for the first world title of her career.
The American crowd chanted “Brianne, Brianne, Brianne” as she burned around the track at the Oregon Convention Center. On the final lap, the University of Oregon product could hear her husband – world decathlon champion Ashton Eaton, of the United States – screaming, “You can win. You can win.”
The Canadian crossed the finish line in two minutes, 9.99 seconds – a full 13 seconds ahead of her Ukrainian rival. Stunned and out of breath, she stared at the video screen and tried to do the math in her head.
“I think I was delirious at that point,” she said later in the media mixed zone. “It was all a blur.”
After what seemed like forever, the public address announcer removed all doubt. In a break from his competition, Ashton ran over and hugged his wife in front of the cameras.
“I’m proud of you,” he said.
“I finally got a gold medal,” she said.
“Yes, you did,” he replied.
Theisen-Eaton won silver at the, 2013 world championships in Moscow, the 2014 world indoor championships in Sopot, Poland, and the 2015 world championships in Beijing.
Finally, her golden dream came true in Portland, just two hours from her training base in Eugene, Ore.
“I’m so excited for her,” said Ashton, the world record holder in both the decathlon and the men’s heptathlon. “It’s no secret that she’s been getting second quite a bit. Especially with me around, it’s tough for her. She struggles to overcome those things. But today, she did. She’s really turning it around.
“She’s a tough woman. I get to see it every day. Now everyone else does.”
Theisen-Eaton won the competition – which includes the 60-metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 metres – with 4,881 points. Mokhnyuk seized silver with 4,847 points. Alina Fodorova, also of Ukraine, scored 4,770 points for bronze.
And so the 27-year-old Canadian is a medal favourite heading into what will likely be her last Olympics this summer.
“I wasn’t coming in here focusing on the gold medal, because I know that’s not how I’m going to win in Rio,” she said. “It’s going to be just, ‘Do the best you can do.’ And so that was my goal coming in here. It was one event at a time and just do the best you can do in every single event.
“Even if I walked away today with fourth or fifth place, I would have known I did everything I could do, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
In other events, Edmonton’s Angela Whyte finished fifth in the women’s 60-metre hurdles. Tim Nedow, of Brockville, Ont. placed seventh in the men’s shot put.