MOSCOW — The Eatons finished their working honeymoon in Russia on Tuesday, ever so close to making it a double-gold celebration at the world track and field championships.
Brianne Theisen Eaton of Humboldt, Sask., failed to sufficiently shake off Ganna Melnichenko in the final 800-metre race of the heptathlon and finished with a silver medal two days after her husband, Ashton Eaton, won gold in the decathlon.
After two days of competition, Theisen Eaton no longer had the legs to create a decisive gap ahead of Melnichenko. And while the Ukrainian went celebrating wrapped in her national flag, Theisen Eaton wrapped herself in the warmest of embraces of her smiling husband Ashton Eaton, an American who won gold in the decathlon earlier this week.
Barely a month after marriage, they proved it was a near-perfect competitive match as she gained her first global medal.
“I watched Ashton the last couple of years winning all his medals and could only sit back and imagine what that felt like,” said Theisen Eaton. “After the 800 metres he just said to me good job and enjoy your victory lap.”
The medal was Canada’s second at the competition after Damian Warner won bronze in the decathlon. It’s the first time Canadian athletes have ever won medals in male and female combined events at the same world championship.
“Ashton and I talked about both being on the podium here, it was definitely our plan,” said Theisen Eaton. “We’ll probably just go home now, sit on the couch for a few days watching television and eating crappy food.”
A real honeymoon could also be on the agenda.
“We’re contemplating on the honeymoon,” Theisen Eaton said. “Now would be the perfect time to go lay on the beach.”
Melnychenko won her first major competition with 6,586 points, compared to 6,530 for Theisen Eaton, who became the third Canadian woman to win a world championship medal. Hurdlers Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (silver in 2009) and Perdita Felicien (gold in 2003 and silver 2007) are the others.
Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands took bronze.
Meanwhile, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva turned back the clock with a vintage performance to beat Olympic champion Jenn Suhr with a leap of 4.89 metres, her best outdoor effort in four years.
“From the greatest, you should always expect great things. Never count them out,” bronze medallist Yarisley Silva of Cuba said. “You have to take a bow to her feats.”
When Silva missed her final attempt, Isinbayeva set off racing across the track, fists pumping the air. Suddenly, all the troubles of the past half-decade fell off her broad, muscled shoulders.
“I had many difficulties, many injuries, and so I am proud of myself that I was able to overcome all these things and be world champion today,” Isinbayeva said.
Right after clinching gold, she jumped over the advertising boards to hug Yevgeny Trofimov, the coach of her youth who returned to revive her career ahead of last year’s London Olympics.
“He is a genuine coach,” she said, crediting Trofimov with her comeback victory. “Just because of him, and just because I made the right decision to come back to work with him.”
It paid off on Russia’s biggest night of the championships.
Isinbayeva even went for a world record at 5.07 metres but, as night closed in over the Luzhniki Stadium, that was too much, even for a woman who had set 28 of them, indoors and outdoors, over the last decade.
Still, at 31 she was jumping for joy like a teenager, somersaulting on the track, leaping in the arms of the mascot and hugging like never before, upstaging even Usain Bolt and his usual showboating antics.
Now, Isinbayeva is taking time off to start a family after the season, she said, but promises she could be back, possibly even for the 2016 Olympics.
However unlikely that would seem, few expected her to win gold in Moscow, too.
The United States had to take a back seat to Russia on Tuesday but still got a huge boost when LaShawn Merritt reclaimed the world title in the men’s 400, pulling away from the pack early and winning by more than half a second.
Merritt crossed in 43.74 seconds, the fastest time of the year.
At the end of Day 4, the United States leads with 10 medals overall and four gold, ahead of Russia with six overall and three gold. Canada is at two.
For sheer surprise, 19-year-old Ethiopian Mohammed Aman came through in the 800 final, rushing past American rival Nick Symmonds to take gold.
Defending world and Olympic champion David Rudisha was out injured, but considering Aman already beat the Kenyan twice, who knows what the outcome could have been.
Earlier, Olympic champion Robert Harting of Germany was again up to his shirt-ripping best and won his third straight discus world title, beating Piotr Malachowski of Poland for gold.