Canada's Warner drops out, LePage wins silver in Commonwealth Games decathlon
Defending champ withdraws after no-heighting in pole vault
Damian Warner's bid to defend his decathlon title at the Commonwealth Games took a nose dive Tuesday when he failed to clear a height in the pole vault, but Canada's medal hopes were salvaged when unheralded Pierce LePage took silver.
Warner missed three attempts at 4.50 metres, failing to score any points in the pole vault. His personal best is 4.90 metres.
That result knocked the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist out of podium contention after seeming poised to repeat as Commonwealth Games champion in Gold Coast, Australia.
Warner had finished the first day of decathlon competition with a comfortable lead through five events and maintained the top spot through seven events by posting the best time in Tuesday's 110-metre hurdles (13.89 seconds) and placing fourth in the discus throw (46.55 metres). After no-heighting in the pole vault he withdrew from the final two stages.
Warner didn't speak to reporters but wrote later in an Instagram post that he was "not really sure what happened." Before congratulating all three podium finishers, he added: "I promise to learn from this and do my best to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Warner's coach, Les Gramantik, was also baffled by the sudden turn of events.
"I wish I could explain exactly what happened," Gramantik said. "It wasn't due to the conditions. Perhaps it was a bit of anxiety. We are both keen to figure it out."
LePage leads Canadian medal haul
Warner's loss was LePage's gain. The 22-year-old Whitby, Ont., native, who came into the day in second place, right behind Warner, held on to the silver-medal spot by placing no worse than fifth in any of Tuesday's five stages. That included a second-place showing in the pole vault event that doomed Warner.
LePage finished with a personal-best 8,171 points — 132 behind gold medallist Lindon Victor of Grenada.
"For me this is a huge stepping stone going from local competitions to a big event like the Commonwealth Games," said LePage, a former winner of the RBC Training Ground athlete search contest who went on to win the Canadian decathlon title in 2017 when Warner did not compete.
Australian Cedric Dubler, who took the bronze medal, said he felt for Warner.
"Damian is an incredible athlete and has supported me for a few years now. When I did the national championships and trials here [in February], he was messaging me 'Good luck' and congratulating me when I did good performances.
"He's so involved and supportive of all the athlete. It's really tough to see him fall back."
Warner was coming off a second-place heptathlon showing at the world indoor championships in Birmingham, England, losing to France's Kevin Mayer by just five points despite setting a Canadian indoor record of 6,343 points.
The 28-year-old from London, Ont., who now makes his home in Calgary, has had his share of bad luck. He finished fifth at last year's world track and field championships in London, England after being laid low by a stomach bug that swept through the Canadian team's hotel.
Along with LaPage's silver, Canada won two other medals in track and field on Day 6 of Commonwealth Games competition in Australia. Wheelchair racer Alex Dupont won gold in the men's T-54 1,500m while Diane Roy took bronze in the same event on the women's side.
Semenya sets record
Also Tuesday, Caster Semenya didn't let a light drizzle and technical malfunction prevent her from setting the Commonwealth Games record in the 1,500 metres.
The two-time Olympic 800-metre champion crossed in 4 minutes, 0.71 seconds, taking more than four seconds off the old mark. That came after a 12-minute delay at the start because of a technical fault, and a slower-than-usual first two laps from Semenya.
She started her surge with 250 metres to go and rounded the leaders with 200 remaining, extending her lead in the home stretch and then flexing her biceps in a bodybuilding pose after crossing the line.
Next up could be gold in her specialty, the 800, as well.
"It's difficult to balance speed with endurance, but with 10 years of experience for me now I'm ready for anything," Semenya said of her prospects of winning over both distances.
"I'm more confident that I know how to run in fast races and slow races, to muster the kicks and make sure I'm in the right shape, because I can't always run in front."
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press