On a steamy night in Tokyo, Damian Warner was as cool as can be, recording the highest score ever in Olympic decathlon on his way to Canada’s first gold medal in one of the Games’ oldest and most storied events.
“It’s been a long two days. When you go through the whole battle of the decathlon and finally finish and you get the result you were looking for, there is no greater feeling. This is a dream come true,” Warner said.
“I’ve never been in this position when one of my dreams came true. I don’t even know how to react right now,” added Warner, who at 31 years old was the oldest competitor in this 21-man field.
Warner, whose 9,018 points are also a new Olympic record, made it known from the beginning of this two gruelling, two-day event that he was the man to beat in Tokyo and deserving of the unofficial title of “the world’s greatest athlete.”
In the 100 metres, the first of 10 decathlon events, Warner put down a blistering 10.12 seconds, a time that would have nearly qualified him for the men’s 100-metre final a few nights ago. He followed that up by soaring 8.24 metres in the long jump, which would have been enough for a bronze in the men’s long jump.
The London, Ont., native added an Olympics-best time of 13.46 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles and a personal best in the pole vault, an event that has given him problems in the past.
He capped off the competition running the 1,500 metres in four minutes 31.08 seconds to cement the gold.
Add it all up and it was a performance for the ages and will surely become one of the great moments in Canada’s Olympic history.
“I’m just grateful. Throughout my whole career, I’ve just felt like the luckiest athlete in the world,” Warner said. “I came from a situation where I really didn’t have any goals or dreams and lucky enough I found coaches who believed in me and made sure I was on the right path.
In decathlon, 9,000 points is the holy grail for a competitor, only achieved three times previously.
Warner won a bronze medal in Rio in 2016. Fellow Canadian decathlete Dave Steen captured the bronze at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
The idea that the decathlon champion is the world’s greatest athlete goes back more than 100 years. At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, after American Jim Thorpe’s decathlon victory, King Gustav of Sweden told Thorpe: “Sir, you are the world’s greatest athlete.”