interview by Kevin Max | photo by Terry Manier
When did you become interested in the heptathlon?
In the fall of 2004. At the time I was doing hurdles, long jump, triple jump, 100m and 200m. I was average at all of them. My coach said to me, “Brianne, I think if you do the heptathlon, which adds the high jump, shot put, javelin, and 800m, you could be world-class; you could compete at the World Youth Championships in Morocco next summer.” I was sold, and although I didn’t enjoy the throwing and the 800m very much, if it meant traveling the world to different meets, it was for me.
Do you recall your early goals?
My biggest goal in high school was to get a scholarship to an NCAA Division 1 school. I didn’t think of anything past that. The Olympics weren’t on my radar, they actually didn’t even interest me. When my high school friends would ask if I wanted to go to the Olympics some day, I’d say, “Nah, that’s way too much work.”
How’s your training going for Rio?
It’s going well. The Olympic year is fun because all of the hard work has already been done, we’re spending this year competing a lot and really fine tuning and sharpening all of the events. What advice can you give to aspiring heptathletes? I think the most important thing that I was told when I started my career as a heptathlete was to try not to think of the heptathlon as one solid event, but as seven different events. Sometimes if you wake up on the morning of a heptathlon competition and you think, “Wow, okay, I have to do seven events and do well in all of them”—that can seem really overwhelming. Instead, I think of them one at a time. Taking the days one event at a time is important.
In the London Games, you finished 11th. What are your expectations for Rio?
Expectations are tough. You can’t expect a final result (a gold medal) because there are so many uncontrollables: How your competitors do, how the weather is, how you feel that day, etc. Therefore, my expectations are that I go into the competition confident and focused and ready to give myself the best possible chance at winning that gold, to do everything to the best of my ability on those two days to win the gold. That means mentally being focused as well, not stressing myself out, controlling the negative thoughts, and just having fun. But of course any athlete who is probably approaching his or her last games and is hitting the peak of their career is going to say they want to win the gold.
Is it cheating, really, having Ashton Eaton as your husband and training partner?
Haha! I definitely feel like it’s a big advantage. Cheating? No. I was just on the ball, got to him first. In all seriousness though, it does really help having him as a part of my team. He knows what I go through, he knows my goals, he knows what’s going to help me get better and he respects my lifestyle.