Olympic Gold Medalist Damian Warner Named CP Male Athlete of the Year
Damian Warner won gold in one of the most grueling track and field events, putting in brilliantly one formidable performance after another over 10 events and two days, in the sweltering heat of Tokyo.
But Warner’s story goes far beyond his Olympic victory.
In an unforgettable year filled with stories of resilience, Warner’s has been one of the most remarkable. And the golden end meant even more to the mammoth challenges that he and his team struggled to achieve.
“Obviously winning the gold medal will be the thing that stands out the most, just because I’ve been chasing it the longest,” Warner said. “But what I’m most proud of is how we persevered in the situation we had, because it wasn’t ideal, and it was difficult, but we found a way around that, while being at our best.
“So knowing how the trip led to the Games makes everything that happened all the more special.”
The 32-year-old from London, Ont., Won Canada’s first Olympic decathlon title unabashedly. He set an Olympic record and a Canadian record, and became the fourth man in history to break the elusive 9,000 points mark.
He capped his year on Wednesday by winning the Lionel Conacher Award as Male Athlete of the Year from the Canadian Press.
The Year of Warner was the stuff of Hollywood movies. COVID-19 closures forced him to train in an otherwise empty and dilapidated hockey arena in London. He would warm his hands over the heaters, but his fingers and toes would inevitably become numb. A 40-meter strip of track that his coaches had glued was as far as he could run.
It hit rock bottom at the end of February.
De Grasse finished 2nd, Davies 3rd
“We were pole vaulting and I was getting really frustrated… it just felt like it was just too much,” he said.
He told coaches Gar Leyshon and Dennis Nielsen it was a waste of time, not gold medal practice.
“And Gar and Dennis were like, ‘We have no other way. That’s all we have.’ It was like that [realization] that’s all we’ve got, and I’m not going to give up on my goals. “
The Conacher race was close, with Warner receiving 18 of the 47 votes cast by editors, writers and sports broadcasters across Canada. Sprinter Andre De Grasse finished second with 14, while footballer Alphonso Davies, who won the award in 2020, got seven votes to finish third.
“Accepting rewards like this is strange to me because it’s basically like a raffle,” Warner said. “Andre won a gold medal and Alfonso is having an amazing year. So when you get picked you feel a little bit guilty. It’s a good problem to have in Canada that we have so many athletes, and not only the three of us, but the list goes on and on of people who have really succeeded this year. As a sports fan, it’s always a cool thing to see. “
“So it’s always a humbling thing and I’m grateful to be recognized, [but] it’s also recognizing my family, my coaches and everyone who helped me get there, and that’s what I find really cool about it, ”he added.
WATCH | Find Damian Warner:
Warner finally made it through the gloomy winter when his son Theo was born on March 11. Because he was born by Caesarean section, it was difficult for Cotten, a former world-class track athlete, to get on and out of bed while feeding. So they moved into their living room for two weeks. They had the Netflix show “Superstore” on “loop, like 24/7” because the characters were “bright, strong and energetic.”
Two months later, Warner hit the track for his first decathlon in 20 months and broke his own Canadian record to win the prestigious Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, Austria.
It turns out he was just getting started.
“Damian Warner did what no other Canadian Olympian has ever done by winning the decathlon,” said Kevin Martel, presenter at 980 CJME Regina. “It’s widely regarded as the most complete medal at the Olympics because you have to excel in so many different events.”
Warner’s final score of 9,018 in Tokyo was an Olympic record. He won by almost 300 points. His only long jump would have won him bronze in the Olympic long jump event. His time of 10.12 seconds in the 100 meters would have almost led him to the final of the 100 Open. If he had run the open 100, he would have been the second fastest Canadian behind De Grasse.
“Damian Warner had to train in tough situations for 10 events,” said Phil King, editor of The Globe and Mail’s sports layout. “At the Olympics, he rightly won the title of the greatest athlete in the world. He deserves all the accolades the Canadian Press can bestow on him and more. He is the cream of the crop – in the world.
Tennis player Leylah Fernandez won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as CP’s best female athlete on Tuesday. The team of the year will be unveiled on Thursday.