Damian Warner wins elusive heptathlon gold in Canadian record effort at indoor worlds
Raises national mark to 6,489 points, beating Simon Ehammer in final event for win
Damian Warner is a first-time world athletics indoor champion
The London, Ont., native placed third in the men's 1,000 metres, the final event of the heptathlon in Belgrade, Serbia, to overtake Simon Ehammer of Switzerland for his first title in three world indoor appearances.
Warner is the season world leader with 6,489 points, which exceeds his Canadian record by 146 points. The 32-year-old finished second by five points behind 2018 winner Kevin Mayer of France and was seventh in 2014.
"I'm going [to Serbia] to win," Warner, the reigning Olympic decathlon champion, told CBC Sports recently. "It won't be easy, but it never is. You want to get a personal best and winning would be icing on the cake. You also want to see that you're in good shape."
WATCH | Warner places 3rd in 1,000 metres to secure heptathlon title:
Warner clocked two minutes 39.32 seconds in the 1,000, 2.20 seconds behind his 2:37.12 personal best from 2018 world indoors. Ehammer was ninth of 10 runners in Saturday's 1,000 in a season-best 2:53.54. He posted a 2:51.14 PB in February 2020.
Ehammer finished with 6,363 points to set a Swiss record and battled Warner from the start of the seven-event competition on Friday.
Ashley Moloney of Australia, the 2020 Olympic bronze medallist in the decathlon, earned another bronze on Saturday with 6,344 points.
Sets 7.61-second PB in 60-metre hurdles
Before world indoors, Warner suggested he might surprise himself with a strong performance in the 1,000.
"I'm still fast," he said, "and I know I'm in good shape and healthy, so anything's possible."
WATCH | Warner wins 60-metre hurdles to begin his Saturday:
The Canadian opened Saturday's action with a 7.61-second victory and personal best in the men's 60-metre hurdles for a 38-point lead over Ehammer before watching his opponent clear 5.10 metres in pole vault to take a 23-point advantage into the final event. Warner's best in the pole vault was 4.90.
Mayer didn't compete this weekend, having withdrawn earlier this month due to Achilles problems that worsened after contracting coronavirus in January, which followed his second vaccine shot last September.
Seven months ago, Warner won gold at the Summer Games for the first time with an Olympic record 9,018 points to defeat Mayer (8,726).
I'm headed in the right direction with the steps we've taken this year from a technical standpoint and training-wise.— Canadian heptathlete Damian Warner
In mid-February, Warner was in a funk at practice and told his coach, Gar Leyshon, he felt "terrible" and "not ready" to compete at world indoors. But coach Dennis Nielsen, longtime physiotherapist Dave Zelibka and sports psychologist Jean Francois Menard rallied around him, telling Warner he was in better physical condition than he thought.
"I think there's still a little bit of that funk in me, but I'm headed in the right direction with the steps we've taken this year from a technical standpoint and training-wise," Warner said.
In other Canadian action Saturday, Edmonton's Marco Arop held the lead through 650 metres in the 800 final before fading and finishing last in the eight-man field in one minute 47.58 seconds, Lucia Stafford of Toronto placed eighth in the women's 1,500 final and Lindsey Butterworth advanced to Sunday's final in the women's 800.
Arop, who won his Friday heat in 1:48.13, darted from the start line and took the early lead before Mariano García passed him on the outside on the way to a 1:46.20 winning time, the first Spaniard to prevail in the event since Coloman Trabado (1:47.42) in 1985.
Arop, 23, set the Canadian indoor record of 1:45.90 on Feb. 9, 2019 in Clemson, South Carolina.
Kenya's Noah Kibet (1:46.35) and Bryce Hoppel (1:46.51) of the United States rounded out the podium.
Stafford 13th in Olympic debut
Stafford, also 23, missed a 1,500 PB by 68-100ths of a second at her first world indoors. The younger sister of Canadian record holder Gabriela DeBues-Stafford. A month ago, Lucia won the women's mile in 4:24.42, the second-fastest time by a Canadian woman behind Gabriela's 4:19.73.
Last August in Tokyo, Lucia didn't advance from the Olympic 1,500 semifinals and finished 13th overall in a 4:02.12 PB.
Gudaf Tsegay ran away from Saturday's field, leading an Ethiopian sweep of the podium in a world indoor record time of 3:57.19. Axumawit Embaye and Hirut Meshesha followed in 4:02.29 and 4:03.39, respectively.
Triple delight for Ethiopia!<br><br>Gudaf Tsegay 🇪🇹 leads an Ethiopian 1-2-3 in a <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldIndoorChamps?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldIndoorChamps</a> record time of 3:57.19 💥<br><br>It’s the first time at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldIndoorChamps?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldIndoorChamps</a> a country sweeps all medals in any event. <a href="https://t.co/dpGAhTy4co">pic.twitter.com/dpGAhTy4co</a>—@WorldAthletics
Butterworth, who hails from North Vancouver, B.C., crossed the line in 2:01.99 to qualify sixth for the women's 800 final, scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The 2021 Canadian champion ran a 2:02.45 heat in her Olympic debut in Tokyo but didn't advance to the semifinals, finishing 32nd.
In Saturday's much-anticipated men's 60 final, current world record holder Christian Coleman of the United States was unable to defend his title, clocking 6.41 and losing by 3-1000ths of a second to Italy's Marcell Jacobs, who was the first 100 champion from the Summer Games to run at world indoors.
Grande, Grandissimo, Marcell 🤌<br><br>Olympic champion <a href="https://twitter.com/crazylongjumper?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@crazylongjumper</a> 🇮🇹 breaks the European 60m record with 6.41 for 🥇 in Belgrade!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldIndoorChamps?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldIndoorChamps</a> <a href="https://t.co/lw38sGrtmf">pic.twitter.com/lw38sGrtmf</a>—@WorldAthletics
Coleman, who was ineligible to compete at last summer's Olympics while serving a suspension for breaching anti-doping whereabouts rules, led Saturday's race 10 metres from the finish but displayed tension in his shoulders, while the six-foot-one Jacobs lifted his knees high and pushed hard to the line.
Coleman, the reigning 100 world champion, was attempting to become the first man to repeat as the indoor champion in the 60 since Canada's Bruny Surin achieved the feat in 1995 in Barcelona.
Coleman's teammate, Marvin Bracy, ran a 6.44 PB on Saturday to place third and Bolade Ajomale of Richmond Hill, Ont., was seventh in 6.63.
Mahuchikh wins high jump gold for Ukraine
Yaroslava Mahuchikh, who was forced to flee her home in Dnipro after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, said she was fighting for her country in the stadium after winning gold in the women's high jump on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, who is the event's reigning European indoor champion, spent days sheltering in a cellar before travelling for three days by car to reach Serbia, a trip of nearly 2,000 kilometres.
Mahuchikh won gold with a leap of 2.02 metres on Saturday, with Australia's Eleanor Patterson taking silver and Nadezhda Dubovitskaya of Kazakhstan claiming bronze.
What a moment 💛💙<br><br>Yaroslava Mahuchikh 🇺🇦 clears a world-leading 2.02m in the high jump and beats <a href="https://twitter.com/eleanorpatto?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@eleanorpatto</a> 🇦🇺 to victory!<br><br>The 20-year-old secures Ukraine its first ever gold medal at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldIndoorChamps?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldIndoorChamps</a> ✨ <a href="https://t.co/o95dqBUb6B">pic.twitter.com/o95dqBUb6B</a>—@WorldAthletics
"It was very important for me, my family, my country," Mahuchikh, who won Olympic bronze last summer, told BBC Sport.
"I don't think about competition, training. For me, coming here was difficult — three days by car — and to jump here was so difficult psychologically because my heart remains in my country.
"It's so difficult but I think I've done very well for my country because I protect my country on the track. I think it's a very important thing for my country."
Mariya Lasitskene, who won gold in the Olympics representing the Russian Olympic Committee team, was ruled out of the competition after World Athletics banned athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus.
With files from Reuters