Canada's Damian Warner wins gold in decathlon, sets Olympic record
Damian Warner captured Canada's first Olympic decathlon title in emphatic fashion.
The 31-year-old from London, Ont., smashed the Canadian and Olympic record and became the fourth man in history to break the elusive 9,000-point barrier at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
Warner capped off the gruelling 10-discipline event with a fifth-place finish in the 1,500 metres - an event he jokingly said he loathes - to finish with 9,018 points, bettering the previous Olympic record of 8,893 points, shared between Ashton Eaton of the United States (2016) and Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic (2004).
World record-holder Kevin Mayer of France won silver with 8,726 points while Australian Ashley Moloney took bronze with 8,649. Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., who'd been flirting with bronze through the first eight events, finished fifth with 8,604.
The gold was a long time coming for Warner, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics and silver at the 2015 world championships.
"I remember sitting on the ground after and being disappointed," Warner said. "I just had the bronze medal but I was like, 'This is not what I wanted.' I wasn't proud to be an Olympic bronze medalist. We worked really hard since then to get to this point. I knew that when I went out there, I was like, I'm just going to give it my all and I'm going to finish strong."
The camaraderie in the event was evident when Warner staggered across the 1,500 finish line and was wrapped in hugs by Mayer and Moloney. Warner posed for photos, wearing the Canadian flag like Superman's cape. He went up into the crowd to hug a teary-eyed coach Gar Leyshon.
Warner was excellent from start to finish. He tied his decathlon world mark in the 100 metres, and then set Olympic decathlon records in the long jump and 110-metre hurdles. He cleared a personal best 4.90 metres in the pole vault on Thursday afternoon.
The track and field community considers the Olympic decathlon winner the "world's greatest athlete."
Canadian Dave Steen won bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, then Warner captured bronze in 2016 in Rio.
Just 14 hours after racing to gold in the men's 200 final, Andre De Grasse, meanwhile, ran a sizzling anchor leg to put Canada's 4x100 relay into Friday's final.
Jamaica had the fastest time on the morning with 37.82, while China ran 37.92 for second place over Canada in a decision that was determined by thousandths of a second in a photo finish.
Aaron Brown, who was sixth in Wednesday's 200 metres, ran the lead-off leg, followed by Jerome Blake and Brendon Rodney. Racing for the seventh time of these Games, De Grasse took the baton from Rodney in about fifth place, before churning down the home stretch to cross the line alongside China.
Warner is also a world silver medallist, and he said watching Canada's Andre De Grasse win gold in the 200 metres on Wednesday night was inspiring. Like Warner, De Grasse had won numerous silver and bronze on the world stage before earning his gold.
Warner is coming off an extraordinary winter that saw him train in an empty, unheated hockey arena that his coaches converted to a multi-events facility after COVID-19 shut down the University of Western Ontario fieldhouse. He and his coaches built a long jump pit, brought in a pole jump pit, built a throwing circle and laid down a 40-metre section of track.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2021.