By Gary Kingston
Damian Warner, Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon and seven-time winner of the prestigious Hypo Meet decathlon in Gotzis, Austria,
But the world’s greatest all-round athlete, a down-to-earth Canadian from London, Ont., insists he’s just a regular guy.
“I’m still the same me, I still do the same things,” Warner said Monday at a news conference to promote Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby. “I still change diapers, I still take out the garbage and do the dishes.
“I really enjoy my life, I enjoy the people I have in my life.”
Warner, 32, was delighted to talk about his 15-month-old son Theo with partner Jen Cotten, a former elite hurdler. He recounted how while he was in Austria last month, Cotten sent him videos of little Theo imitating his dad.
“He was doing long jump and shot put and stuff. It’s so cool. He’s growing up so fast, it’s unbelievable.”
Unbelievable also describes Warner’s run of late. He followed up that Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021 with a first-place finish in the heptathlon at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia in March and then won for the record-setting seventh time at the Hypo Meet.
Warner will contest the 100-metre hurdles and the long jump at the Jerome, where he hopes to be pushed by some international competitors. In the long jump, American Rayvon Grey (8.17 metre PB) and Tristan James of Dominica (8.08 PB) have personal bests close to Warner’s 8.28.
In the hurdles, Warner has a 13.36 PB. American Samuel Brixey and Canadian Joey Daniels both come in with a PB of 13.57.
“Every single time you can go into a competition that pushes you, it’s always a step forward,” said Warner. “These are always great opportunities to practice and opportunities to win and to lose and to learn.”
Warner became just the fourth decathlete in history to score more than 9,000 points when he won Olympic gold in Tokyo and says he’s very comfortable with what he’s been able to accomplish in his career. He is quick to add, however, that he is nowhere near done.
“Obviously, I don’t expect my career to end any time soon, knock on wood. But I’ve put myself in a position where I can be proud of what I’ve been able to achieve. And now every competition that I go to, it’s ‘Can I win? And ‘How far can I push this score.’”
When Madeleine Kelly ran a 1:59.71 personal best in the women’s 800 metres at the Portland Track Classic on Saturday night, it marked the second time this spring that she has gone under two minutes, but just failed to crack the World Athletics qualifying standard of 1:59.50.
Still, Kelly, a 26-year-old from Pembroke, Ont., who ran 1:59.83 last month in California, refuses to play the ‘if only’’ game.
“The Olympic year (when she finished 31st in Tokyo) was stressful, especially during a pandemic,” said on Monday at a news conference. “I think I spent last year so wound up with the little stuff. So this year, I’ve made the Olympics, I’ve run 1:59 and at this point the rest is gravy. I’m very proud to be running 1:59 consistently now and the results will come.”
She’ll try again to make the standard on Tuesday at the Harry Jerome Track Classic. North Vancouver’s Lindsey Butterworth, who has a 1:59.19 PB and will surely make World Championships in Eugene, Ore., in May on world rankings points, has decided to run the 1,500 metres at the Jerome, but there’s still a strong field in the 800.
“Lucia Stafford (2:00.80 PB) is in the field,” said Kelley. “I work out with her every day. I know she’s in incredible shape and the field is still strong. The beauty in the 800 is that all the girls are going to be there through 600 and then the race is really the last 200.
“In Portland, I took it from the gun and I’m just trying to get myself comfortable in a lot of different situations. I felt great in that race, my body felt great. I was really calm before the race. If I keep running like that, the (qualifying time) is in there.”
Stafford, who ran the 1,500 in Portland, recording the third best time of her career, is looking forward to the 800 at the Jerome.
“Maddy and I work out together all the time and when she runs well, it’s a good sign that I’m ready to run well. I’d love run under the two-minute barrier. I know I can.”