As It Happens·Q&A

Damian Warner's partner 'can't wait to celebrate' his gold medal with him

Jen Cotten says she hasn't quite wrapped her head around the fact that her partner is an Olympic gold medalist, and she's looking forward to celebrating his victory in person with their nearly five-month-old son Theo.

'It's so crazy that his dream came true,' Jen Cotten said of Warner's record-setting decathlon

Left, Damian Warner celebrates his decathlon gold medal with a Canadian flag draped around his shoulders. Right, his partner Jen Cotten and their baby boy Theo celebrate at home. (Petr David Josek/The Canadian Press, Andrew Lupton/CBC)

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Jen Cotten says she hasn't fully processed the fact that her partner is an Olympic gold medallist, and she's looking forward to celebrating his victory in person with their infant son Theo. 

Damian Warner of London, Ont., scored the gold medal in decathlon at the 2020 Tokyo Games, setting a new Olympic record with 9,018 points.

He told CBC Sports he couldn't have done with without Cotten's support.

She spoke to As It Happens guest host Katie Simpson after Warner's big win. Here is part of their conversation. 

Jen, what an incredible moment for Damian and your family.... Have you had a chance to wrap your head around this yet?

I've been saying to him in messages like, "OK, Olympic champ." I have to keep saying it because I can't quite wrap my head around it. Like, it's so crazy that his dream came true.

Describe how you're feeling right now.

I don't know. I'm kind of wondering how our life is going to change, if it's going to change. I mean, Damian is a very humble guy and I don't think it'll change who he is, obviously.

I always knew he was kind of capable of winning and getting huge scores, so it's not really a huge surprise. But, like, just to have it actually have happened, it's wild, and I can't wait to celebrate with him.

Have you had a chance to actually talk to him yet at all?

We haven't chatted yet. But when he has some time, I'm sure we'll have some good phone visits with Theo and his mom as well.

What do you want to say to him when you do get a chance to actually talk to him?

I might just, like, shake my head in disbelief and just kind of hear about his experience and just kind of how it went from his perspective. I just want to kind of hear the joy in his voice. I'm sure he's going to be really happy and hopefully, like, it'll be pouring out of him.

You know, this is such a moment of celebration for you, for Damian, your family, for the country. But to get to this point is so much work. What kind of pressure was Damian under leading up to today?

The Olympics are kind of notably not very conducive to good performances. The schedule is pretty awful for athletes. And, as you see, it's super hot and the conditions aren't always great.

So I think a huge score wasn't really on his mind. I think he just wanted to compete. He wanted to win. He's a big competitor. So that's kind of always in the forefront. And then just a big score was kind of like icing on the cake, I think, for him. 

I think he just kept it loose and fun and thumbs up all the time.

Warner and Cotten enjoying the Canadian winter with their pooch. (Submitted by Jen Cotten)

Earlier today, Damian told CBC that it has been a very tough year, and with all the changes to training because of the pandemic, there were some times when he really doubted himself. But he said that you were a part of the reason why he kept going. What do you remember about those conversations?

That's kind of news to me. When he gets home, sometimes he bounces things off me or, like, shows me his videos. But I think it's been helpful to him to switch off the track brain and just be here with the family. So I don't often want to bring it back to track, if he's already kind of left it at the door.

So maybe it's just a matter of, like, switching focus and just kind of encouraging him to have his time with Theo and get all the pictures I can of them.

I actually made a little book for him. It's kind of from Theo, and it was, "If you miss me, here's some memories, my favourite memories with you," with pictures of them together and some of the artwork he made with, like, his handprints and stuff.

Little Theo rocks a onesie that reads: 'I'm daddy's gold medal.' (Submitted by Jennifer Cotten)

Damian spoke to CBC's Adrienne Arsenault about the support you've helped through his Olympic dream while caring for your little boy, little Theo. Here's what he said:

"She's kind of taken the burden to kind of get up early in the morning to make sure that he's taken care of, and it took so much stress off of me. And when I'm away, I know Theo's in great hands and she's always kind of supporting me. And I couldn't have done this without Jen. She's like the most amazing person in the world. And I was telling some of those guys up there that when I was younger, my mom told me a lot of things: 'You can do anything you set your mind to.' But she also told me, like, 'There's no such thing as perfect.' And Jen's the closest thing to perfect that I've ever seen. And she is just an amazing person, and I couldn't be a more grateful, more happy person. And I can't wait to get home and to share this whole experience with them."

What do you think when you hear Damian say that about you?

Oh, that's so sweet. I know I have big shoes to fill. Not that he's comparing me to his mother, but his mother is amazing and a super capable and tough lady, so just to be kind of equal with her in his eyes is incredible to me.

I'm more than happy to step into the role of Theo's mother with Damian by my side as his father. And he thinks I've taken a lot of the burden, but I had had a C-section and he stepped up and was cooking and cleaning and changing all the diapers. Like, he did so much, especially for those first six weeks, but even beyond that.

He's in the trenches with me 100 per cent. So, yeah, I couldn't do without him either. Whatever we're doing in this life together is definitely a team effort.

Warner curls up on the couch with his dog and baby boy Theo. (Submitted by Jen Cotten)

Your son is too little to remember this Olympics and his dad's big win. But what do you plan to tell him about his dad and the journey to get to gold?

Maybe I'll kind of tell Theo: "I guess you're Dad's good luck charm."

I think taking on what Damian said from his mother, like, you can do anything you set your mind to. Theo can kind of experience that first-hand. As you said, he was too young to remember it, but he was here and we have pictures to prove it.

How do you plan to celebrate with Damian when he gets home to London, Ontario?

I think Damian's mom always makes some cheesecake, so maybe we'll count on that. But other than that, just, I think family time. And we have a little inflatable pool in the backyard, so we'll hang out in the little inflatable pool with Theo. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Kate Cornick. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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