PORTLAND, Ore. — Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton knew she needed more than a 10-second margin over Anastasiya Mokhnyuk in the final 800-meter event to win the pentathlon gold medal at the world indoor track and field championships.
With 150 metres left in the race Friday night, she heard her husband — decathlon world-record holder Ashton Eaton — cheering: "You can win! You can win!"
"I had no idea where anybody else was, but I like, ‘You know what? If I’m doing the best that I can in every event, I have another gear here,"’ she said.
That pushed Theisen-Eaton to the finish line in 2:09.99. Several tense moments passed while the points were tallied, and the 27-year-old finished with 4,881 — a new Canadian record.
Mokhnyuk had the lead going into the 800. The Ukrainian, who had the world lead in the pentathlon this year, surged into the lead after a personal best long jump of 21 feet, 10 1/4 inches.
Fellow Ukrainian Alina Fodorova, the bronze medallist in the 2014 world indoors, was in second before the final event. Theisen-Eaton was third
But Mokhnyuk finished 11th in the 800 to fall to second in the multi-sport event with 4,847 points, and Fodorova was third with 4,770.
Even though she represents Canada, Theisen-Eaton, from Humboldt, Sask., was the crowd favourite from her days at the University of Oregon. It was in Eugene that she met her husband, who is a Portland native.
Eaton is also at the world championships, competing in the indoor heptathlon. The world-record holder in the event, he holds the lead after the first day.
After the results were announced in Portland, Eaton rushed over to embrace his wife.
"I told her, "I’m proud of you,’" Eaton said.
Theisen-Eaton, the silver medallist at the indoor championships in 2014, knew going into the final race that she needed a 10.7 margin of victory over Mokhnyuk to win. She admitted to nerves, but set out to run the smartest race she could.
Eaton, who was on the inside of the oval, ran to the finish to cheer her on — but his shouts were drowned out by the roar of the crowd as she pushed down the final stretch.
"The gold medal is great, but I’m most proud of myself for executing this competition, mentally, the way that we’d planned," she said afterward, draped by the Canadian flag.
Next up is a bid for her second Olympic team. She finished 11th at the London Games.
The field at the indoors in Portland was increased to 12 for the first time since 1997, but missing was Nadine Broersen of the Netherlands, the 2014 world indoor champion, and Jessica Ennis-Hill of Great Britain, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist and the 2015 outdoor champion.
It also lacked athletes from Russia, which is facing doping and corruption allegations. The IAAF, the sport’s international governing body, is expected to decide in May whether the nation will be allowed to compete at the Rio Games this summer.