While certain performances deservedly got the spotlight, Stuart Weir highlights two athletes who stepped up in Portland to make the most of their appearance on the global stage
While many of the headlines of day two of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland belonged to Brianne Theisen-Eaton, for her gold medal, PB, national record and world-leading score of 4881 in the pentathlon, I also want to add two other significant achievements.
On the hunt for her first world gold, Theisen-Eaton moved from third to first in the course of the final event, the 800m. “I think the big cherry on top of this whole weekend is I had a plan coming in and last year in Beijing I had some trouble mentally focusing on my own competition,” she said afterwards.
“I’ve been working on that quite a bit so my goal coming in here was to just try to do the best I could do in every event and although there are some rusty events, it’s March and I felt that I did the absolute best I could do in every event today.
“Whether it was a gold, silver, bronze, or no medal at all, I would have been satisfied with how I did.”
A lovely moment, enjoyed by the crowd, was the appearance of her husband, Ashton Eaton, who came on to the track to hug the Canadian in the moment she realised that she had won gold. Eaton was in the middle of his heptathlon competition at the time.
Theisen-Eaton said: “It’s always an advantage having him compete at the same time as me but my coach and Ashton and my physiotherapist are with me every single day so they are the ones who understand the most what goes into it.
“I know my family is there and they see it but to have someone that you share so much with right there being able to experience it with me is so special. Seeing him calms me down.
“When you are in a stressful situation competing at something like this sometimes you want to give up or just can’t handle this pressure anymore. But seeing him on the sideline running toward me to help me with something helps calm me down a little bit and being able to celebrate this with him is really awesome and the cherry on top.”
But in addition to that Canadian record, there were two other significant national records elsewhere at the Oregon Convention Center on Friday.
Christina Francisco, running on her 19th birthday, broke the Guam 400m national record with 60.08 in the heats. She described competing in the World Indoors as “a once in lifetime experience” which filled her with joy.
Guam, in case you did not know, is an island of 170,000 people in the Pacific.
Meanwhile, Djénébou Danté of Mali, West Africa, also set a national record with 55.76. She said: “I am very pleased because I did my best and it is my first time at a major championship.
“My goal for the year is to get to Rio but I am a long way from the qualifying standard.
“Athletics is not well developed in Mali but we have a good president and we are going in the right direction.”
Part of the magic of the IAAF World Indoor Championships is that it can accommodate the “royalty” of Eaton and Theisen-Eaton, but at the same time celebrate the achievements of athletes from small countries who have also done their best.