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Volume 20 No. 46
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Plugged In: Ashton Eaton, Brianne Theisen-Eaton

Nine months after their final Olympics, two-time decathlon gold-medalist Ashton Eaton and his wife, Rio heptathlon bronze-medalist Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada, are asking the classic retired athlete question: What’s next? The cross-border power couple of track and field still aren’t sure. But as they enjoy their freedom from the track, they’re thinking in business terms about windows of opportunity, the declining value of their celebrity as their accomplishments recede into history, the challenges of entrepreneurialism and big markets where they can make a difference. For now they’ve agreed to become national ambassadors for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training Program.

We do understand, it’s not like everyone’s going to remember what we did forever and we can just get our foot in the door any time, five years down the line. Do we really care about that? It’s hard to say. We can obviously see the benefit of starting something while we’re fresh in your mind.   -- Ashton Eaton

On the legal and logistical frustrations of creating their own social media contest to send a fan to the 2016 Rio Olympics, which was complicated by Olympics IP law, sweepstakes law and liability issues.
It was like when you’re in high school and college, and you’re learning stuff in textbooks and memorizing it for a test, and you say, “OK, I can do this.” But as soon as you do it in the real world, you’re like “Ohhhh …” It was complicated and frustrating at times, but I don’t think it’s preventing us from doing something like that again.

On taking their time to decide on a new career:
Ashton has said to me before, being an athlete was great, but I’m ready to be known for the next thing. We’re OK with not being athletes any more. I think that’s why we’re spending time thinking about our passion. We’re not worried about losing athlete fame, if that makes sense.

On what’s next:
I am launching something new in June. My passion is food and food education, which just grew from being an athlete and having to learn, and that last piece to add to my performance was nutrition. I’ve learned ways to cook comfort foods — things we were craving like burgers and fries — in a healthier way. Working with a really great sports physiologist in Canada, I learned to read a lot of detailed studies and get the actual information on how food works. So I want to educate people on that, and make recipes, and help people live a more balanced lifestyle. Just last night there was this really great idea, an app, so maybe we can build upon this.

Ashton envisions an educational program to address a problem he sees: I think basically, you look at university right now, and that’s the top. There’s a huge gap between high school and university. Imagine if you could bridge that gap, imagine an institution that not only costs less money, but it takes less time to get to a more advanced level.

On how entrepreneurial ambition is like sports:
If the idea is to impact the community, and you want to touch as many people as possible, then you just keep going. It’s definitely about taking it one step at a time and just see where it goes, what comes of it. It’s like when you first start out — you don’t think about the Olympics. We were in high school, and then you want to win state, or provincials, and then if you do that, you want to win the next level, and then the next.

                                                                                                                               — Ben Fischer