Damian Warner crowned Canada's top athlete of 2021 with Lou Marsh Trophy

Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner was voted Canada's best athlete of 2021 on Wednesday. Warner, 32, collects the Lou Marsh Trophy after his record-setting performance at the Tokyo Games.

Decathlon champion broke Olympic record en route to gold medal in Tokyo

Canada's Damian Warner, seen above celebrating winning gold in the Olympic decathlon, won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete in 2021 on Wednesday. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)

Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner was voted Canada's best athlete of 2021 on Wednesday.

Warner, 32, collects the Lou Marsh Trophy after his record-setting performance at the Tokyo Games, where he led after all 10 events to become just the fourth person ever to break the vaunted 9,000-point mark. He is the first Canadian to win the Olympic decathlon.

The London, Ont., native was later named Canada's flag-bearer for the closing ceremony.

Warner, who won bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio, set an Olympic record and a national record with 9,018 points in Tokyo.

"It is an incredible honour," Warner told CBC News. "I was at practice and I was warming up and my coach and my manager and [a] couple others came over and shared a video from Damian Cox and he was the one who broke the news to me.

"I think when I look back at it when I'm older, it will mean that much more knowing that we persevered through all those hard circumstances and it's a testament to the team around me."

WATCH | Warner joins CBC News to discuss winning Lou Marsh Trophy:

Damian Warner interview with CBC after being awarded Canadian Athlete of the Year

1 year ago
Duration 6:36
CBC News’ Aarti Pole interviewed Olympic champion decathlete Damian Warner after becoming the recipient of the 2021 Lou Marsh Award.

Warner tied his decathlon world mark in the 100 metres in Tokyo and set Olympic decathlon records in the long jump and 110-metre hurdles. He cleared a personal best 4.90 metres in the pole vault.

The six other finalists for the award were sprinter Andre De Grasse, swimmer Maggie Mac Neil, soccer players Stephanie Labbé and Alphonso Davies, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was born in Montreal.

Media members from across Canada voted Wednesday on the annual Toronto Star award.

NFL player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Davies, a left back for Bayern Munich, were named co-winners of the award last year.

WATCH | Why Damian Warner was the perfect choice:

Damian Warner named Canadian Athlete of the year

1 year ago
Duration 4:06
CBC Sports Scott Russell discusses why Damian Warner is the perfect candidate as winner of this year's Lou Marsh Award.

In recent weeks, some have called for the award to be renamed after Marsh's history of racism and antisemitism while he was a reporter with the Star came to light.

Marsh opposed a Canadian boycott of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany and used racist language to describe Indigenous runner Tom Longboat as well as Black, Chinese and Jewish athletes throughout his career.

The Star announced on Tuesday it was initiating a "comprehensive study" of Marsh's career to determine whether the trophy should continue using his namesake moving forward. Results of the study, headed by Dr. Janice Forsyth, an associate professor of sociology at Western University, are expected to be released next year.

"I think it's one of those things where I don't want to villianize a man or attack a man that is not here in this day and age to defend himself," Warner said. "I think he definitely said some things that were not aligned with Canadian values, even at the time they were said.

"I know that growing up here in Canada, I learned of Terry Fox and the list goes on and on. It would be fitting after the investigation I believe is taking place, to name the award after someone that all Canadians can get behind."

"I know I would, and many other Canadian athletes that will be up and coming would be extremely proud to receive an award with [Terry Fox's] name on [the award]. I'm definitely behind the changing of the name."

WATCH | Warner takes gold in Olympic decathlon:

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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With files from The Canadian Press

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