Track and Field·CBC SPORTS IN TOKYO

Canada's Damian Warner in gold-medal position after Day 1 of Olympic decathlon

For decathlete Damian Warner, the shift from the chill of a London, Ont., hockey arena to the stifling heat of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium has been more than smooth. He currently sits atop the field after Day 1 of the decathlon at the Tokyo Olympics.

Fellow Canadian Pierce LePage sits in 3rd place after 5 events

Canada's Damian Warner competes in the men's decathlon 100-metre event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

For decathlete Damian Warner, the shift from the chill of a London, Ont., hockey arena to the stifling heat of Tokyo's Olympic Stadium has been more than smooth.

With half of the Olympics' most gruelling test of skill and endurance now complete, Warner is sitting atop the leaderboard in the men's decathlon.

And his Canadian company in the field, Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., had a career day in Tokyo and currently sits in third place heading into Day 2.

From the start, Warner let everyone know that it will take a special effort to beat him.

Early in the morning, Warner put down a blistering 10.12 in the 100-metres, a time that would have nearly qualified him for the 100m final a few nights ago. He followed that up by soaring 8.24m in the long jump, which would have been enough for a bronze in the men's event.

"It was a great start, a start I was looking for. It is kind of on par with what I had earlier this year, when I had my lifetime best performance," Warner said.

WATCH | Damian Warner equals his world best time in 100m sprint:

Damian Warner equals his world best time in 100m sprint to open the decathlon

1 month ago
4:43
Damian Warner of London, Ont., matched his world decathlon best time of 10.12 seconds in the 100-metre portion of the Olympic men's decathlon. Fellow Canadian Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., finished third overall with a time of 10.43. 4:43

At an event in Götzis, Austria, in May, the Olympic bronze medallist in Rio had his best-ever career performance, totalling 8995 points, the fourth-highest decathlon score ever recorded.

On Wednesday evening in Tokyo, Warner had a decent showing in the high jump and shot put, both slightly below his personal bests.

He closed the first day of competition with a 47.48 seconds result in the 400m, the third-best time in the field, to finish the day with 4722 points. Australia's Paul Moloney sits in second place with 4641, and LePage is in third with 4529.

Athletes will resume competition on Thursday with the 110m hurdles followed by the discus and pole vault. The event wraps up in the evening with the javelin and the 1,500m.

"Damian is surfing on a big wave of momentum right now. There is psychological momentum, there is physical momentum," said Michael Smith, who competed in the decathlon at three Olympic Games for Canada.

WATCH | Canadians go 1-2 in decathlon long jump as Warner leaps to Olympic-best record:

Canadians go 1-2 in decathlon long jump as Damian Warner leaps to Olympic best record

1 month ago
1:09
Damian Warner of London, Ont., and Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., finished first and second in the decathlon long jump, as Warner jumped 8.24 metres to set a new Olympic decathlon best, while LePage leapt 7.65 metres. 1:09

In decathlon, the holy grail for competitors is 10,000 points, which has never been achieved. France's Kevin Mayer, who currently sits in fifth place, has the highest score ever recorded, a 9126, which he reached in 2018.

While Warner dazzled, LePage was also turning heads in Tokyo.

The 25 year-old's performance, filled with personal and season's bests, had international broadcasters frantically trying to find out how to pronounce his last name.

"We get along well, and we have similar strengths in decathlon. He is an awesome guy to have there," Warner said.

WATCH | Pierce LePage wins his group in shot put, Damian Warner 4th:

Canadian decathlete Pierce LePage wins his group in shot put, Damian Warner 4th

1 month ago
2:29
Pierce LePage of Whitby, Ont., threw a new personal best 15.31 metres to top Group A in the shot put portion of the decathlon, while Damian Warner threw for 14.80 metres to finish fourth in the group. After three events, Warner and LePage are in first and second place overall. 2:29

It's been hot all week, but Wednesday was especially stifling with the temperature creeping toward 40 C during the day. Night brought little relief, with heavy humid air trapped inside of the cavernous stadium.

"It was kind of advertised that these were going to be the hottest Games ever. I am at my third Olympics, and I can verify that these are the hottest ones in which I have competed," Warner said.

For Warner, his performance so far in Tokyo is remarkable considering what it took to get here.

All athletes faced hurdles during this more than year-long pandemic, but few (who weren't hockey players) had to shift their training to a hockey arena.

After Western University, where the 31-year-old had been training, shuttered its facilities because of COVID-19, Warner was without a home only nine months before Tokyo.

His coach would eventually make an arrangement with the city of London for Warner to continue training at the city's nearly 70-year-old Farquharson Arena.

There his coach fashioned a makeshift pole vault area, brought in the necessary pads for high jump and cobbled together a ring for discus and javelin.

The arena is also only 55-metres long, meaning Warner could only run full speed for  40.

"I think that to be a good decathlete, you have to be adaptable because the only certain thing that there is going into a decathlon is that something's going to go wrong," Warner told CBC Sports.

So far, it's been smooth sailing in Tokyo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jamie Strashin is a native Torontonian whose latest stop is the CBC Sports department. Before, he spent 15 years covering everything from city hall to courts and breaking news as a reporter for CBC News. He has also worked in Brandon, Man., and Calgary. Follow him on Twitter @StrashinCBC

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