Olympic bronze medalist Damian Warner adjusting well to new home, coach in Calgary
Decathlete Damian Warner is fully aware winning an Olympic medal no small accomplishment. But by no means was he satisfied.
“I’m capable of a lot more than bronze, or at least during the Olympics in Rio, I was in shape to achieve more than a bronze medal,” Warner said.
The Canadian record holder in decathlon wants to move a couple more steps up the podium and he’s willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
“From the outside looking in, a lot of people can think, ‘You won a bronze medal, why would you change anything?’
“But I know that it’s not just about the medal; it’s where I want to get to as an athlete. I knew I had to change something.”
That “something” was his location. The London, Ont. native moved from his hometown and long-time coaches (Gar Leyshon and Dennis Nielsen), to Calgary to join renowned track and field coach Les Gramantik.
“I thought it was the best decision for me but that didn’t make it any easier,” he said. “Being born and raised in London, Ontario and being with those coaches since high school – they’re not just coaches to me, they’re like family to me – and to tell your family you’re going to pick up to go somewhere else and train with someone else was very tough.”
“The ability is there to score really well and eventually win,” Gramantik said.
“The most important next four years are winning World Championship, winning Commonwealth, winning another World Championship and winning Olympics.”
A former Athletics Canada coach, Gramantik is widely considered an expert when it comes to multi-event sports such as the decathlon and heptathlon. Most noted for his work with Olympians Michael Smith and Jessica Zelinka.
“As a coach today I’m 10 times better than I use to be 10 years ago,” he said. “I’m still learning a lot, still studying a lot, and I will bring things – exercises, drills – to his program he has never had before.”
That includes a daily training environment unlike any other.
“You have speed skaters here (Olympic Oval), at WinSport you have hockey players, and soccer players, and wrestlers,” Warner said.
“It just breeds excellence and people are just kind of feeding off one another and it’s just a very cool atmosphere.”
“This place is full of world-class athletes,” echoed Gramantik. “That helps, seeing a speed skater, seeing somebody else, that’s so important.”
The field in international decathlon also saw a drastic change to kick-off 2017.
Two-time reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Ashton Eaton retired in early January.
“I saw some messages saying, ‘Oh, Damian’s probably really happy or Damian’s going to be excited because he might be the next person up.’ I was just thinking, ‘That’s the total opposite of what I’m thinking right now.’
“For me I want to be the best I can be, I want to be the best athlete in the world and I know if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And Ashton was the best.”
But that title is up for grabs moving forward and Warner hopes this move to Calgary will help put him over the top.
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