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Brianne and Ashton Eaton’s Christmas ornament collection

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Ashton Eaton and his then-fiancé, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, strolled through the streets of London, looking for the perfect souvenir to commemorate their experience at the 2012 Olympics. 

Eaton, the 2012 Olympic decathlon champion for the U.S., and Theisen-Eaton, who finished 10th in the heptathlon for Canada, left several gift shops empty handed. They saw a couple of unique shirts, but, as Nike athletes, both had more shirts than they could ever wear. They considered buying a coffee mug, but knew their cupboard was already full.

They finally found a ceramic Christmas ornament of Big Ben and a red double-decker bus, and bought it without hesitation. 

“It was the perfect souvenir,” Theisen-Eaton said in an interview at the NYRR Millrose Games. “Christmas ornaments are something that you can pack away, and then bring out to relive the memories once a year.”

The collection quickly grew for the couple, who married in July 2013. During a post-Olympic trip to Paris, they visited the Eiffel Tower and bought an ornament that was modeled after the monument.

“We try to find something that will remind us of the places we’ve been,” Eaton said.

It is not always easy for the Eatons to find Christmas ornaments. Their track season typical season starts in January and ends in August, before most souvenir shops begin stocking Christmas items. 

They have therefore learned to get to get creative. 

“Sometimes we will buy a magnet, take the magnet off the back, put a hole in it, and hook a string through it,” Theisen-Eaton said.

The couple ran out of time to look themselves for a Christmas ornament while in Beijing for the 2015 World Championships. 

Eaton recruited his mother, Roslyn, to find a Christmas ornament. She journeyed to the Silk Market with Theisen-Eaton’s sister, Jessica. They found a vendor who customized Christmas ornaments by writing customers’ names in Mandarin, along with phrases including “longevity” and “good fortune.”

They then had to negotiate a price.

“The Theisen family knows how to haggle,” Roslyn said at a sponsored appearance for P&G. “I had never done that, so they taught me.”

The Eatons have yet to actually display their Christmas ornament collection, which now numbers several dozen. They are usually at a training camp in Santa Barbara, Calif. during the month of December, while their ornaments are stored in a shoebox in Bend, Ore. 

“When we have kids,” Theisen-Eaton said, “we will set up a Christmas tree and start the tradition with them.”

Both athletes are considered medal favorites at the 2016 Olympics. At the 2015 World Championships, Eaton broke his own decathlon world record to win his second world championship, while Theisen-Eaton claimed the heptathlon silver medal, behind 2012 Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill.

They are looking forward to adding to their Christmas ornament collection in Rio. 

“Hopefully we can find Christ the Redeemer,” Eaton said. 

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