Decathlete LePage earns 1st international win at Hypo Meeting, halting Warner win streak
Reigning world silver medallist from Whitby, Ont., 1 point shy of personal best
A Canadian has captured decathlon gold in Götzis, Austria for a seventh consecutive year but unlike the previous six titles won by Olympic champion Damian Warner, this time Pierce LePage was victorious.
The Whitby, Ont., decathlete amassed 8,700 points, just a single point behind his personal best, to capture his first Hypo Meeting title. This is a continuation of consistent exceptional performances by LePage, who last summer won silver at worlds.
"It's my first time winning Götzis. It's my first international win since 2019. Just great. The crowd was amazing," LePage said on the Austrian public broadcast after the win.
"Shout out to Damian. He definitely pushed me the entire way. He's the king of Götzis. Just because I won once, he's still the king."
WATCH l LePage of Whitby, Ont., captures first Hypo Meeting title:
Warner, in his return to competition after a hamstring injury last summer at the world championships placed second. He had won in Götzis a record seven times, including six consecutive going into this meet.
"The better man won today," Warner said.
"I've been telling people for a long time it's just a matter of time before Pierce LePage is on the big stage and is putting up big numbers and he's coming. And I'm coming with him."
Warner the 'lead-by-example' guy
After last summer's silver medal, at the same event Warner got injured, LePage took time to talk about how much respect he has for his fellow Canadian and how much he's learned from Warner over the years. They were supportive of each other at the Tokyo Olympics, with LePage having a front-row seat to Warner's Olympic win. LePage placed fifth.
"Damian is a great friend. A great competitor. Every meet I've gone to he's been there. He's the lead-by-example guy," LePage told CBC Sports last summer.
It was a riveting two-day battle between the two Canadians, who wrestled away the lead from each other over the 10 events. After Day 1, Warner had a slim 18-point lead. He increased his lead after the 100-metre hurdles to begin Sunday's competition and then LePage mounted his comeback.
With a throw of 49.34 metres in discus, LePage shot into the lead ahead of Warner by just nine points. Then in one of his stronger events, the 27-year-old soared five metres in pole vault compared to Warner's 4.50 effort.
That put LePage in front by a comfortable 159 points with two events remaining.
Historically, Warner has been a stronger javelin thrower compared to LePage but on Sunday in Austria winds of change swept across the infield.
For ten years straight I'd say javelin was my least favourite event but somehow it went far.— Canadian decathlete Pierce LePage on his personal-best 63.09m throw on Sunday
Warner applied pressure on the first throw, firing the javelin 59.92 — LePage threw his javelin out of bounds and didn't record a measurement. But with drama building LePage brought his best on his final two throws.
🇨🇦 PIERCE LEPAGE <br><br>Takes back the lead. A monster 59.98m throw. A personal best. It might just be the throw that wins this for him. <br><br>Brilliant from the Canadian. Warner in second. <a href="https://t.co/f7ez8U2UEk">pic.twitter.com/f7ez8U2UEk</a>—@Devin_Heroux
With a huge crowd clapping ahead of LePage's final throw, the six-foot-seven athlete launched the javelin 63.09 for a PB to all but lock up the victory. His previous best throw was 58.24.
'I will be ready for worlds'
"For ten years straight I'd say javelin was my least favourite event but somehow it went far. It was great," he said.
"When I come here I try to have fun and see where I'm at. I saw a lot of good things and will be ready for worlds this summer."
LePage opened an insurmountable 206-point lead with the 1,500 remaining. He cruised to a time of 4:45.74 which was good enough for victory. Warner went 4:26.16 here to secure second spot.
"It was a battle. It was the toughest decathlon I've done in a long time. All I could do was lay it on the track. I was looking for the easy way out, I just wanted to run an easy 1, 500 and go slow but Sander [Skotheim] ran hard and pushed me. I feel I'll get better because of that.
It was a gutsy and inspiring two days of competition from Warner, who talked after Saturday's events about how he had struggled in the week leading up to the event. For the last 10 months he's been rehabbing from the hamstring strain that ended his season last July."
Warner was still able to rack up a total of 8,619 points to place second.
LePage and Warner will battle once again at the Aug. 19-27 world championships in Budapest, Hungary.
WATCH | Warner seeking redemption at upcoming worlds in Budapest: