Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Remember this name – Ashton Eaton! You’ll no doubt be hearing it quite a bit in the days ahead now that he’s the gold medal winner in the Olympic decathlon, a prize that gives him the unofficial title of greatest all-around athlete in the world. Even track and field legend, Usain Bolt, who has wowed the Brits and the world with his back-to-back Olympic wins in the 100-meter and 200-meter races, seems to agree.
“I’m a great athlete but to do 10 events, no,” Bolt said after Eaton won the decathlon. “I’ve got to give it to him.”
The 24-year-old Eaton, who could also have the title as nicest all-around athlete in the world, told me that being mentioned "in the same sentence” as Bolt is “clearly awesome.” “He is a legend in track, he’s the fastest man in history. He’s the fastest man to ever walk on the face of the earth … I see what he does and I do the sport and I’m like, there’s no way I could ever do that,” said Eaton, during an interview at the P&G Family Home for U.S. athletes and their families.
The magnitude of what Ashton accomplished has not quite sunk in yet. Asked what he was feeling when he realized the gold medal was his, he told me, “I was just kind of thinking, man, this is it, this is what it was all about, and I’ve put in a lot of hard work to do it,” he said with a laugh and then a big exhale. “I think it was relief is what it was. I was just like, ah, finally did it, yes.”
He doesn’t seem ready for all the attention that is likely to come with television interviews, cereal box covers and endorsement deals. “I don’t know if I’m ready for it,” he said. “I don’t necessarily dislike (it) but sometimes I just don’t like that kind of stuff. I mean, I’d rather just go home, be with my friends like normal.”
In the near term, he’s looking forward to going off the grid for a while with fiancée Brianne Theisen, a Canadian heptathlete who placed 11th in London (their wedding date is set for July 2013). And ladies, if you don't already love Ashton for his athletic achievements, smarts, poise and yes, great looks, you’ll love him now. Nothing gets under his skin more than when Theisen is not appreciated for her own athletic achievements. “It really pissed me off because she got introduced as the fiancée of Ashton Eaton … and I was like what the hell, she has her own accolades, like best collegiate athlete in history, like what is going on, so that kind of stuff is hard. She’s a very competitive person, she’s an individual and she has her own stuff so (when) people try to attach her to my name, it’s just like, we don’t like that very much,” said Ashton.
Brianne, you are one lucky gal, and so are we because now that we know Ashton and you, we’ll keep watching to see what you do next.
Check out more of my interview with Ashton including what role his fabulous mom, Roz, played in his success and whether he would join some of his fellow Olympic athletes and consider doing Dancing with the Stars:
On the support he got from his mom: “It’s been huge because, maybe that’s where it all came from, because I never thought I couldn’t do anything and I never had any doubts what I could do, or anything I thought of, I thought I could do it. So I didn’t have any restrictions which is a huge deal because if you feel like, if you (are) already thinking negative thoughts or have restrictions then it’s so hard to keep the motivation to try something new … that was all her doing pretty much.”
On who inspired him as a kid: “Anybody that did anything athletic that I was like I could do that too. I would just, any sport, I would watch TV, I would watch basketball and football and baseball and I thought anything that those athletic guys can do, I can do.”
On whether he would consider Dancing with the Stars: “No … I don’t watch a lot of TV, I watch that stuff and I’m like what is going on … I don’t like doing that stuff.”
On how the P&G Family Home reduced his stress during the Games: “It was a huge deal, the P&G Family Home was like a massive, massive blessing … I called my mom like the third day I was here and I was like, ‘Are you guys alright?’ Just kind of cringing, waiting for her to say, this and that’s wrong, blah, blah, blah. She’s like 'Oh, we went to the Procter & Gamble house, we go every day, we get food and just hang out.' I’m like thank you, that is like the best news I’ve ever heard."
Watch another Olympic star, Gabby Douglas, on making history in the gymnastics all-around competition:
The cost of Kelly's travel to London was paid by Procter & Gamble.