London, Ont.-born Olympic gold medalist Damian Warner is celebrating in his hometown after being inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame last year.
Monday’s ceremony, which included the CEO of Canada’s Walk of Fame, Jeffrey Latimer, and outgoing Mayor Ed Holder among others, was held at Western University’s Thompson Arena, Warner’s longtime training facility, as part of the Hometown Stars initiative organized by Canada’s Walk of Fame
He opened his speech by honouring former athletics and business manager Jeff Fischer, who died on Oct. 15 due to cancer.
“We lost a really important member of our team,” Warner said, recalling how Fischer was the one who told him about the ‘star’ opportunity from Canada’s Walk of Fame.
“Jeff would always announce things but laugh, and he was laughing when he suggested, so I thought he was joking around. I thought it was a joke, because I felt undeserving, like I didn’t necessarily feel like the accomplishments that I had would put myself up on the list of some of the other Canadians that he mentioned.”
Warner noted two particular inductees: wrestler Bret The Hitman Hart and actor Keanu Reeves.
“When I was growing up, I was a big wrestling fan,” he said. “My cousins and I would always play around with these little action figures with a little fake wrestling mat. We had Hulk Hogan, Bret The Hitman Hart, and it didn’t seem real that I could be inducted at the same time as one of those guys. And then there’s Keanu Reeves and what kid didn’t grow up watching The Matrix?
“To be inducted amongst those two people was really crazy to me,” he continued. “But nevertheless, it’s an incredible honour.”
Warner was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in December 2021. Monday’s free public celebration featured a commemorative replica plaque unveiling along with other special events.
Additionally, Warner, like other inductees, received $10,000 to donate to a charity or cause of their choosing, which he split between BGC London and KidSport Canada, according to officials.
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On top of stunning the world in 2021 after setting a new all-time Olympic record in the decathlon in becoming the fourth person in history to finish with more than 9,000 points, and setting a world decathlon best in the 100-metre, long jump and 110-metre hurdles, Warner was chosen to carry the Canadian flag in the closing ceremonies of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
In thanking his team and supporters, Warner expressed his appreciation for their continuous work and support.
“I don’t necessarily think people can truly understand the amount of sacrifice that coaches and teachers have to make to give to an athlete, not only for them but their families as well,” said. “I think it’s really important to give thanks to that whenever we can and from the bottom of my heart, I want you guys to know that all the sacrifices and everything that you guys have given to me over the years, I truly, truly appreciate it.
“It takes a team to achieve a dream and we have some of the best people in the world.”
Moving on to thank his family, Warner shared “the most important words” he’d ever received.
“My mother told me that you can do anything you set your mind to and that’s what I’ve tried to run my life by,” he said. “But at the same time, I understand that things just don’t happen. You have to surround yourself with the right people (and that’s something) my mom taught me too.”
He went on to thank the city of London as a whole for “playing a huge part” in his life.
“The saying that it takes a village is completely accurate in my case, but in this case, it takes a city,” he said. “And this city has been behind me every step of the way and supported me every single way, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.”
Warner’s hometown Walk of Fame plaque will be installed at a to-be-determined location in the city, according to officials.