London, Ont., has a new Olympic champion.
Damian Warner gave Canada its first-ever gold medal in the Games’ decathlon event, with an Olympic record-setting score of 9,018 points.
The 31-year-old’s achievement was a cause for celebration during a viewing party attended by family and friends in his hometown.
“It’s unbelievable to hear them say Olympic champion,” said Warner’s partner Jen Cotten.
“I know that’s what Damian wanted and Team Warner wanted and was hoping for, but it’s crazy to actually have it come true.”
Warner’s first Olympic gold medal comes just under five months after the couple received what they consider to be their other gold medal — their son Theo.
“I was a little bit worried leading up to (Tokyo), he has refused to go to a different room to sleep, he wants to stay in the same room as me and the baby,” Cotten said.
“I’m just so glad that it hasn’t affected him negatively … It’s just so awesome to watch him embrace all the different roles he’s in right now,”
“I can’t put into words how I feel that he’s made his dream come true,” said Warner’s mother Brenda Gillan.
“I’m not sure when he’s coming home yet. It’ll be a big party when he does.”
Assistant coach Dennis Nielsen has been with Warner since he was a student at London’s Montcalm Secondary School and says he feels on top of the world following the Olympic record-setting performance.
“All those years of blood sweat and tears, years of disappointment, years of joy, all coming to fruition, it’s the best ever,” Nielsen added. “We never doubted he would be an Olympian, we never doubted he would win the gold medal … at some point, he’ll go down in the history books as having the highest score in decathlon and the world’s best athlete. Period.”
“You’re lucky if you’re a coach and have a chance to coach someone like Damian Warner.”
The backyard viewing party in north London was hosted by Warner’s business manager Jeff Fischer, who saw first-hand as the Olympic champion went through a unique training set-up before arriving at the world stage.
“He couldn’t travel south due to the pandemic, plus his partner was expecting,” Fischer said, adding that COVID-19 protocols at the time prevented him from training at Western University.
Team Warner eventually received permission from the city to transform London’s Farquharson Arena into a makeshift training facility using the old hockey rink inside.
“We joked about the fact that we can start renting that out as the global decathlon facility and people would show up going, ‘are you kidding me?’ But that’s what it is,” Fischer added.
As of Thursday, Canada’s gold medal count at the Tokyo Olympics stands at five, three of which have a Londoner’s name on it.
Along with Warner, the other Forest City champions include Maggie Mac Neil who set a Canadian-swimming record to win the 100-metre butterfly, and Susanne Grainger who was on board when Canada won women’s eight rowing.
Londoners Jessie Fleming and Shelina Zadorsky will have a chance to capture Olympic gold on Friday when they suit up for the women’s soccer final between Canada and Sweden.