Damian Warner of London, Ont., made his first event of the season a phenomenally memorable one.
Warner shattered his own Canadian record for the decathlon and came within five points of joining a very small group of athletes who have amassed 9,000 points over the two-day event. He did it at the Hypo-meeting in Gotzis, Austria. which annually brings together the best decathlon and heptathlon athletes in the world.
Only Kevin Mayer of France, Ashton Eaton of the United States and the Czech Republic’s Roman Sebrle have broken the 9,000 mark.
The Montcalm secondary school graduate finished first place with 8,995 points overall, breaking the Canadian record of 8,795 points he set in 2018. Warner came within 131 points of the world record, which was also set by Mayer in 2018.
Warner spoke with ORV TV in Austria minutes after the event ended.
“It was really exciting to be out here and competing again,” he admitted. “It’s unfortunate that I was five points off the magical 9,000… but I finished this decathlon healthy and I’m ready for Tokyo.”
The Olympic Games are still scheduled to begin in Japan on July 23.
Going into his last event, Warner knew that he needed to beat his own personal best in the 1500 m. As he made his way down the back stretch Warner made a move, going from fourth place into second and then into first as he went into the final turn.
The time he needed to get the required number of points was 4:24.59.
Warner sprinted the final 100 metres and came across the finish line in 4:25.20.
Just 61 one-hundredths of a second away.
But in speaking with ORF TV, Warner didn’t point to the 1500 m as being the difference.
“The shot put and the javelin let me down.”
Having to augment training due to COVID-19 left Warner indoors and javelin and shot put are not easy to practice inside.
If those were at one end of Warner’s performance spectrum, the long jump was at the other.
He jumped a Canadian and world decathlon record 8.28 metres on Day 1, nearly clearing the entire landing pit.
Warner earned his sixth title at Gotzis, which is something that he had his eye on heading into the weekend. Sebrle had won five times at the event and Carolina Kluft of Sweden won five heptathlon titles.
“When I thought about going out here and winning the decathlon for the sixth time, I thought I’d feel a little guilty if I came here and got the win without putting up a good score,” Warner told ORF TV. “Fortunately I was able to come out and do that and put my name up there with Roman and Carolina.”
Canada’s Pierce LePage finished second to Warner at Gotzis.
Warner is now planning to return home, and following a quarantine period, spend some time with his new son who was born earlier this year.