GOTZIS, Austria — Damian Warner emphatically shattered his Canadian decathlon record Sunday.
The 31-year-old from London, Ont., scored 8,995 points to win the Hypo-Meeting, becoming the first person to win six titles in the prestigious event. His previous national record was 8,795 points set in this competition in 2018.
Warner was attempting to become just the fourth decathlete in history to top the 9,000-point barrier. The others were Kevin Mayer of France (9,126), American Ashton Eaton (9,045), and Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic (9,026).
Still, his total was the fourth-highest in history.
"There's a reason why only three guys have ever scored 9,000 points," Warner said. "It's not something that happens every single day or happens every single decathlon no matter how great you are.
"It's something that just happens, and you have to go out there and you have to execute in each one of the events. And when you're in position to get it, you got to take it in. Unfortunately, I had a ripe opportunity and I kind of let it pass me by, but I gave it my all and my legs are feeling it now."
Pierce LePage, of Whitby, Ont., was second overall with 8,534 points.
The Hypo-Meeting is considered an unofficial world championship for multi-event athletes.
Warner's quest was dealt a big blow when he finished sixth in his group in the javelin with a throw of 59.46 metres, well below his personal-best effort of 64.67 metres. That netted Warner 730 points, giving him 8,219 heading into the decathlon.
By comparison, Belgium's Niels Pittomvils registered 780 points after a throw of 62.77 metres.
"I can't be too picky," Warner said. "I had some great results over the last couple days.
"But the shot put (Saturday) and the javelin let me down, or I let myself down in those event, and didn't execute how I wanted to, but everything else was really good. And I gave it my all in the 1,500, and I didn't get that 9,000 points, but I'm really proud of myself and my coaches for getting ready for this competition and performing so well."
Warner's effort in the shot put was 14.31 metres, below his personal-best of 15.34 metres.
This competition was Warner's first since the 2019 world championships and he opened it with a bang, registering a world-best in the long jump. He had an effort of 8.28 metres Saturday to top American Ashton Eaton's mark of 8.23 set in 2012.
The mark was also a Canadian record, eclipsing Edrick Floreal's mark of 8.20 metres set in 1991.
That result helped propel Warner into the overall lead after the first five events - 100 metres, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 metres - with 4,743 points. LePage remained second with 4,421.
Warner's performance is remarkable considering the roller-coaster year he's had amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the University of Western Ontario facilities were closed due to COVID-19 safety protocols, and Warner couldn't train in the U.S. through the winter, he and his coaches transformed the unheated, 66-year-old Farquharson Arena into a multi-events training facility.
He'd said the forced break caused by the pandemic had a silver lining in that he was able to heal a couple of ankle injuries.
"It's really exciting to be out here and competing again and I'm always happy to be back here in Gotzis," he said. "And to get another one means a lot.
"It's unfortunate that it was five points out the magical 9,000 barrier but I got really close, I've had some really good results this weekend and for having two years with no competitions and coming out here and scoring 8,995, I'll probably settle for that."
Warner is also a new dad. He and longtime partner Jen Cotten, a former national team 400-metre hurdler, became parents to son, Theo, in March.
"My girlfriend and little boy are somewhere else quarantining so once I go back, I'll have two weeks without them," Warner said. "I'm really excited to go back and give them a hug and give them some kisses and and see the little boy again.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2021.
The Canadian Press