Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

Brianne Theisen-Eaton’s gold medal victory had extra meaning, not so much due to the medal itself, which she had found elusive until this past weekend in Portland at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships, but for the execution of that win. Previously she won silver three times, once during the Beijing 2015 outdoor worlds and twice indoors in Moscow 2013 and Sopot, Poland 2014; three times a bride’s maid.

“What gave it the most meaning was the fact that I had a plan going into the competition, and I executed that plan perfectly. I couldn’t have done anything differently or better, and that’s what meant the most to me. The gold medal was just the cherry on top as the reward,” She told Athletics Illustrated through her agent.

Theisen- Eaton’s strength is in running. The 800-metre race is arguably her strongest event. When it counts she will run 2:09-low outdoors, for example during the 2012 London Olympics she closed with a 2:09.27, during the 2013 Moscow Worlds she ran as fast as 2:09.03, which is her personal best outdoors. Sunday, it came down to her needing to run near a personal best indoors, which is typically more difficult to accomplish on a 200-metre track. In order to win gold, she would have to out-race Ukraine’s Anastasiya Mokhnyuk by nearly 11 seconds, which would be a massive win.

“I was pretty confident that I’d be able to move up into second place, as I only had to beat one of the Ukrainians by 2.5 seconds. But moving all the way into first place required me to beat Mokhnyuk, by nearly 11 seconds. I knew my PB was better than hers in the 800m, but it’s not 10-plus seconds better. Before the race I told myself, “You just have to go out there and run your heart out. Do the best you can do and don’t worry about her. If you do that, you will not be disappointed in yourself no matter what the outcome.”

That would be a tall order as Mokhnyuk owns an indoors personal best of 2:16.69 and an outdoors personal best of 2:15.52. The different between their indoors bests is just seven seconds. Theisen-Eaton ran 2:09.99 and waiting with anticipation for the announcement.

“When I crossed the finish line, I turned around to try and see where Mokhnyuk was. She crossed the line and I tried to do the math in my head to see if I had won, but I was too delirious. So then it was a matter of sitting and waiting.”

Husband, Ashton Eaton waited with baited breath for the announcement. Eaton, an American is the world’s best Decathlete.

Asked how the race played out, Theisen-Eaton said, “Barbara Nwaba is a good 800m runner and I knew that she would go out fast, so I planned to stick with her. She took it out and for the first 400m and I ran comfortably behind her, right on the pace I wanted to hit,” Said the 27-year-old. “Coming around on the third lap, I started to get uncomfortable. I heard Ashton yelling, “the pain won’t get any worse, you can deal with it.” That was a good reminder. On the final lap is when everything fell into place. I had no idea where Mokhnyuk was or how far she was behind me, but coming around again I heard Ashton yelling, “Brianne, YOU CAN WIN! YOU CAN WIN!” It was the way he said that which helped me find another gear. It was the sincerity of his voice saying it, and I knew he was serious, that I had a serious shot to win.”

When the announcement came over the P.A. system, that Theisen-Eaton’s 2:09.99 won it, Eaton ran from the infield to embrace his wife on the track, finally no longer a bride’s maid.  Mokhnyuk’s 800m was 2:23.19, 13.20 back.