Damian Warner laughed when talking about the lure of track and field when he was a teenager in London, Ont.
"In high school, I was just a basketball player," Warner, now 23, told CBCSports.ca in June. "I also started doing the track but I really only did it because I got time off school and didn’t take it too seriously."
Warner’s feelings changed when Gar Leyshon, one of his coaches at Montcalm Secondary School, took him to watch fellow student Max Dubinovsky win silver at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field championship.
Canadian decathlete Damian Warner set a personal best over the weekend with 8,512 points to win a bronze medal at the world track and field championships in Moscow. Here's the breakdown of his performance in the 10-discipline event.
- 100 metres: 10.43 seconds, 992 points
- Long jump: 7.39 metres, 908 points
- Shot put: 14.23m, 742 points
- High jump: 2.05m, 850 points
- 400m: 48.41 seconds, 889 points
- 110m hurdles: 13.96 seconds, 980 points
- Discus throw: 44.13m, 749 points
- Pole vault: 4.80m, 849 points
- Javelin: 64.67m, 808 points
- 1,500m: 4:29.97, 745 points
"I stood up on a hill with no umbrella and probably no rain gear and watched him compete in the pouring rain," Warner recalled. "It was so competitive between [the athletes]. I just wanted to do it the next year and started showing up to more practices and doing the things that would make me a better athlete.
"I understand the hard work part [of the sport] now. I used to think I could just show up to practice. I’ve been able to travel the world, something I thought I would never do."
On Sunday in Moscow, Warner captured Canada’s first medal at the world track and field championships, winning bronze in the 10-discipline men’s decathlon with a personal best 8,512 points.
Sitting in fourth place after a disappointing first of two days of competition at Luzhniki Stadium, Warner got back in the medal hunt with a time of 13.96 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles.
He moved into medal position in the javelin when his personal-best throw of 64.67 metres pushed him ahead of Germany’s Rico Freimuth. Warner then clinched bronze with a 10th-place performance in the 1,500m (four minutes, 29.97 seconds).
Warner, who also set PBs in shot put (14.23m) and pole vault (4.80m), finished 18th at the world event two years ago.
'When I was younger I always thought I was going to be the next Vince Carter. That didn’t come true, but I found my calling [in the decathlon] and doing the best I can at it.'— Canadian decathlete Damian Warner
It’s been a banner calendar year for Warner, who finished fifth in the decathlon last August in London, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In May, he battled cold, rainy and windy conditions to score 8,307 points and win at the prestigious Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, Austria.
A few weeks later, Warner finished first at the Canadian track and field championships in Moncton with 8,145 points.
"When I was younger I always thought I was going to be the next Vince Carter," said Warner of the former Toronto Raptors’ star guard/forward during an interview with CBC News Network on Monday. "That didn’t come true, but I found my calling [in the decathlon] and doing the best I can at it."
More confident and consistent this season, Warner is inching closer to the Canadian decathlon record of 8,670 points, established by Michael Smith in 1995.
"I always think I can improve in each event and I still feel that way," Warner told CBCSports.ca in June. "There’s no way but up, really. I know there’s a lot more I can do."
However, Warner pointed out none of what he’s accomplished in a short time would be possible without the support of his family and friends.
Warner said he would remain in Moscow through the end of the world competition on Aug. 18, splitting his time touring and watching his Canadian teammates.