Ashton Eaton, an Olympic-medal winning athlete, says he and his wife Brianne Theisen-Eaton still root for each other despite representing different countries

By Rose Minutaglio and Lindsay Kimble
Updated December 08, 2020 02:15 PM
Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty

Olympian Ashton Eaton lives in a house divided: the decathlete will represent Team USA at the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics, while his wife Brianne Theisen-Eaton runs, jumps and throws as part of Team Canada.

Eaton, 28, tells PEOPLE that there is sometimes a competitive spirit between he and his wife, but they still root for each other.

“When we’re competing at the same meet, even though she’s Canadian and I’m American, we’re very much rooting,” he says. Laughing, he adds, “We call it ‘Team North America.’ But for example, in the Winter Olympics when Canada and the United States play each other, it’s a whole different story.”

In reality, their shared sports – Theisen-Eaton competes in the heptathlon, which includes seven events – has bound them closer.

“There’s a lot of positives that come out of it actually,” Eaton tells PEOPLE. “We’re both driven individuals, and even though we are both athletes and both go through hard times as athletes – maybe it’s an injury, or maybe it’s an event you can’t figure out or maybe you don’t win a meet that you wanted to. We are supportive of one another in those tough times, and that’s how you really get close to someone and grow.”

The pair met while in school at the University of Oregon, with Eaton going on to win the gold medal in 2012 ahead of their 2013 wedding.

Part of marriage for the Eatons includes training, a shared diet and at-home motivational speeches, he explains.

“We’re open to talking about [our nerves] because we’ve both been through it before and we both know how it feels,” Eaton says.

Another shared goal (aside from multiple medals)? Their new social media campaign “#WhatsYourGold?”

“In the Olympic year we thought, ‘Well, athletes go after gold medals but that doesn’t mean we’re the only ones that have to,’ ” explains Eaton of the project. “So we thought of asking everyone ‘What’s your gold?’ And it doesn’t have to be athletic. And the contest is somebody tells us what their gold is, and for three months they take us on a journey to it.”

Related Video: Ready for the Olympics!? ‘PEOPLE’s’ Collector’s Edition The Best of the Games Is Out Now!

He continues, “The requirements are to tell us the goods, and the bads and what you learned. As athletes we’ve learned that it’s not necessarily about getting to the Olympics or anything like that, it’s what you do in between, it’s the process of getting there … We as athletes struggle, sometimes day-to-day, technique or something goes bad, there’s frustrations, it’s hard, and how you get through those is what’s really kind of inspiring people. The person who takes us on the best journey to their gold wins a trip for two to the Olympic games.”

And a winner has been announced: Baylor University Track and Field athlete Jenna Pfeiffer is going to Rio!

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit The Rio Olympics begin August 5 on NBC.