Damian Warner didn’t get the decathlon gold he’s been dreaming of, but still played his part in the Canadian renaissance in athletics.
“I’m very happy that I was able to pull it out,” said Warner. “I wanted to challenge for that gold spot. But there’s so many ups and downs within a decathlon and I’m proud of myself and the work that my coaches have put in.”
RELATED: Warner wins Olympic decathlon bronze
Winning the Olympic gold was always going to be tough in a talented field that included world record holder Ashton Eaton. The American ended up claiming the top spot, his second consecutive Olympic gold.
But Warner, the Canadian record holder, is already anticipating their future battles.
“Ashton’s a great competitor and I look forward to competing against him every single time,” said Warner. “For some reason, in my mind, going into the next decathlon I feel like I can beat him.
“I think it’s that mindset that ultimately is going to move me forward and push me on top so one day I can beat him and score the points I know I’m capable of.”
That strong sense of self-belief has helped produce a Rio breakthrough for not just Warner, but Athletics Canada teammates Derek Drouin (gold in high jump, Canada’s first since 1932), Brianne Theisen-Eaton (bronze in heptathlon, Canada’s first ever) and Andre De Grasse (two sprinting medals, so far).
“It’s an honour to be part of this team,” said Warner. “It’s just awesome to be able to share these moments with them.”
Canada’s last Olympic medal in decathlon was a bronze won by Dave Steen, who Warner first met during a training session in 2010. Steen arrived, unannounced, to offer Warner some tips in javelin.
“When he left I was like, ‘who’s that guy?’” said Warner. “And my coach is like, ‘that’s Dave Steen, he won the bronze medal at the Olympics.’”
The two are in touch to this day, with Steen sending Warner good-luck messages prior to Rio. And that javelin advice, offered six years ago, may have ended up helping Warner claim his Olympic medal.
Warner was disappointed with his first two javelin tosses on Thursday, in the second-last event of the decathlon. He’d need a big distance on his third toss to maintain his bronze-medal position heading into the final event, the 1500m.
“I just told myself that this is a do-or-die moment, and just went out there and tried to give it my all,” he said. “Thankfully it went 63 metres and not 58, because that was the difference maker in this decathlon.”
And although the bronze is a significant accomplishment on his own, Warner has no plans of shelving his ambitions of hitting the top of the Olympic podium.
“Ultimately, every single decathlon that I do is a learning experience,” he said. “So I’ve just got to keep working and challenge myself and get ready for 2020.”
With report from Camille Wallace.