World record holder Ashton Eaton added another impressive item to his athletic resume tonight when he took home an Olympic Gold medal in the decathlon for the second time in a row. The Oregon native has strong family support behind his dreams: His wife is fellow Olympian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, who won a Bronze medal last week, and his mother Roslyn Eaton has encouraged his athletic pursuits since childhood. I recently had the chance to speak with both Ashton and Roslyn, and they were a charming and fun pair to talk to.
Ashton told me that Roslyn’s support has been crucial since day one. “I like to call it ‘Foundational’,” he said of her support. “All the things that I learned when I was young, and different experiences that she walked me through and let me have, and also protecting me and shielding me from all the negative things that could happen in life; those types of things [when] you’re growing up kind of give you a platform if you will, a solid foundation, if you think of building a house – a rocket for me to launch from. Anything from ‘Hey, I want to do this, that and the other’, having me experience those to find out which ones I liked or didn’t like. Any time I would struggle, being there as a support – really teaching the fundamentals of listening to your coaches, being respectful, being disciplined, and all the things that go into being a successful athlete.”
For Roslyn, her goal was simply to give her son good life experiences. “It never occurred to me that it would get Ashton here [to the Olympics],” she told me. “The point was always just to hopefully, be a part of him experiencing so many different things. When he was a little boy he was not an Olympian, he was a just a little boy that wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. So we found Taekwondo classes for him. And he wanted to run really fast – his nickname was ‘Wheels’ – so we got him on a baseball team, you know, Little League, that kind of thing. It was always just about him doing what he loved to do that involved movement. And I started noticing that at about 7 years old with him.”
Because of his solid family foundation, Ashton was inspired to join the P&G “Thank You Mom” campaign. “I love the ‘Thank You Mom’ campaign,” he said. “P&G is so smart and thoughtful to even do that. I remember in 2012 they told me about it and said, hey, we’d like to celebrate this with you and your mom. I was like, that is such a cool idea. And this time around being a part of the P&G family again – my wife is actually a P&G athlete, her mom is in the ‘Thank You Mom campaign’, I’m a Gillette athlete, so this whole deal for us has really been a family thing.”
He first began working with Gillette on a campaign called “Perfect Isn’t Pretty“. “Once they told me what it was about, I was instantly involved. It was part of P&G which I loved, from the experience that we had in 2012 and what they stood for. [It] was awesome because they wanted to tell a story that people don’t see. People see competition, and the product. And what they don’t see if the development of the product, and how most times that development, that process of going through to produce something, is not pretty. And they wanted to tell that story.
I said, this is awesome. Because it humanizes athletes, and I think for them it was a bold move because it humanizes the company. Saying, look, our mission is always to create the best razor. And, year in and year out, we are trying to perfect that. And that comes with new technology, like this year with the ProShield, and that’s the best razor we can produce now. And then the next journey, we’re going on to try to produce the next level. And the product of that is not pretty all the time, you know – roadbumps, speedbumps, negative things, and you have to overcome difficulties. And that’s the exact same thing an athlete goes through trying to produce a performance.”
And when it comes to overcoming hurdles, Ashton keeps perspective by thinking about the big picture. “One of the strategies that I use is when I go through a difficulty, [is] I know I’m going to go through another one at some point, so I just assume that the difficulty that I’m going through now is half as bad as the next one will be. Twice as hard. Might as well just get tough and go through this one, you know? And another thing is you just know through experience that it really doesn’t always end up that bad, and when you go through difficulty, you gain a strength equal to the difficulty you went through. So you know you’re gonna come out stronger in the end.”