Best of 2021: Damian Warner is the World’s Greatest Athlete

Our Best of 2021 series recaps the incredible performances by Canadian athletes over the past year. Check out the full list here.

Damian Warner’s display of athletic excellence in the decathlon became more impressive by the minute at Tokyo 2020.

Heading into 2021, Warner hadn’t competed a decathlon since early October 2019. But despite a less-than-ideal training environment, Warner delivered an unprecedented performance to earn the unofficial title of World’s Greatest Athlete.  

Here’s a quick look back at his historic year:

Damian Warner, of Canada, competes in the decathlon javelin throw at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A few months before the Olympic Games began, Warner showed he was a serious contender for gold when he won a record sixth career title at the prestigious Hypo-Meeting in Götzis, Austria, breaking his own national record with 8995 points.  

READ: Damian Warner wins Hypo Meeting with Canadian record

Coming so close to the elusive and exclusive 9000-point mark left Warner with something to strive for in Tokyo.

On the first day of the Olympic decathlon, Warner quickly separated himself from the pack with an Olympic decathlon best in the long jump, matching his own world decathlon best in the 100m, and a season-best effort in the shot put.  

Damian Warner, of Canada, second left, reacts after finishing the decathlon 100-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

READ: Brown proud; Warner & LePage strong in Olympic decathlon

On day two, Warner set an Olympic decathlon best in the 110m hurdles and a personal best in the pole vault to widen his gap on the field. Heading into the final event, there was little doubt the gold medal was his. So all eyes were on the clock in the 1500m, where his time got him to 9018 points overall – an Olympic record.

Damian Warner, of Canada, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

READ: Warner makes history as Canada’s first Olympic decathlon champion

READ: Living the dream: Damian Warner, Olympic decathlon champion

The sheer dominance and historic nature of his performance led to Warner being chosen as Team Canada’s flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony.

READ: Warner named Team Canada’s Closing Ceremony flag bearer for Tokyo 2020

And just a few months later, he was honoured as Canada’s Athlete of the Year.

READ: Decathlon champ Damian Warner named Canada’s Athlete of the Year

From fifth place at London 2012 through his bronze at Rio 2016, Warner stayed committed to his goal of gold and shattered all expectations in the most unpredictable of years.