Wednesday, May 18 2022

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Damian Warner had just completed his eighth of 10 Olympic decathlon events in the scorching heat of Tokyo. It was two months ago, August 5the. He broke a personal best in the pole vault, taking his overall lead to over 200 points. There would be a break before the night session at the Olympic Stadium.


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And while athletes never want to consider the finish line when there is still a long way to go, Warner is human. He knew the numbers, he saw the size of his lead.

“I said to my coach, ‘We’re going to come back tonight and win a gold medal,’” Warner said. That moment, and a chuckle shared between them, was the only time the 31-year-old from London, Ont., Allowed himself to think about the Olympic title ahead. And then he had more urgent business.

“I was just, like, someone put me in saran wrap or bubble wrap or something so I wouldn’t hurt myself in the next five hours because we had a really big break coming up. . “

And so, when Warner spent the final hours before becoming the decathlon champion, he moved cautiously, like a toddler learning his steps. “When I was going down stairs or crossing uneven grass, I was walking as slowly and safely as possible,” he says. “Because at that point, I felt like those were the only things that could compromise him.”


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What happened next was Olympic history. Warner delivered a nice javelin throw to further consolidate his lead. The last event, the 1,500 meters, was as shallow as it gets. He ran 4:31:08 to finish fifth in the race and set a new Olympic record of 9,018 points in the process. He had wanted to cross the 9,000 point mark, so he still needed a good time. Accomplished job.

“I think before the 1500 there were less nerves than I ever had before the 1500, and yet to this day I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I got the result I was looking for, ”says Warner.

The days that followed were somewhat hazy. The competitive season has ended in Tokyo, but there are still demands on an Olympian’s time at the end of the Games, sponsors to meet and partnerships to maintain. He was in Hamilton playing a Tiger-Cats game and, another night, threw a first pitch in a Toronto Blue Jays game.


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“We’ve been really busy, but this is one of those things where times like this don’t happen too often, so you take everything into account when you’re there, and I just had a lot of fun with it all, ”says Warner. He and his partner Jennifer Cotten have a son, Theo, who was just born in March, so the family have also been busy spending time together. (We’re speaking through one of its sponsors, Club House, which features Warner in a campaign about the importance of getting outside and connecting with your family during the Thanksgiving season.)

But it will soon be time to start training for the next competitive season, in preparation for the indoor track and field championships in Serbia in March and then the world track and field championships in Oregon next summer. From there, he will be two years until Paris 2024, and Warner envisions something different on the road to his Olympic title defense: competing in events that are not the decathlon. It adds a fascinating sub-plot to his preparation: he is already a world-class long jumper, and his times in the 100-meter and 110-meter hurdles in the Tokyo decathlon were comparable to those of many Olympians specializing in these events. . It is not excluded that Warner could qualify for the finals of these events if he concentrated his training, even for one season. Or as he says, “Switch things up, have a little fun, see how we can kind of compete with some of the best dogs.”


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Damian Warner against André De Grasse? It would be a visit by appointment.

And while that sounds like an unusual way of training for a decathlete, it’s not like Warner isn’t used to turning things around. He spent much of the preparation for Tokyo 2020 in makeshift training facilities like a cold old London arena due to pandemic border restrictions that prevented him from traveling to the United States. Many athletes have told stories in Japan about their DIY workout setups, but Warner was doing it for 10 events. And, in the home stretch, with a newborn baby at home.

“When I dreamed of preparing for the Olympics and how I thought it had to be to win a gold medal, that wasn’t necessarily how I would have predicted it – waking up in the middle of the night with a crying baby or (working on a hockey rink, “Warner says, with an impressive degree of understatement.


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He thanks his coaches and support staff for helping him through the hardships of the past year – and takes a moment to thank his partner more.

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“Jen, she doesn’t have enough credit for what she’s been through throughout this year,” he says. “When I go to these competitions, she looks at Theo and does a lot of things at home, while also trying to be a student.

“She does an amazing job and made my job as an athlete a lot easier. So, yeah, it feels like the decathlete is an individual athlete because that’s all you see when we’re competing, but it’s really a team sport.

Having said that, I ask, and knowing that one cannot predict the future, he must understand that the preparations for Paris will at least be easier?

“Oh, yeah,” Warner said, laughing. “I certainly hope so.”



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