Olympic gold medalist Damian Warner is aiming for a decathlon world record after last season’s ‘disastrous’ end
Olympic champion decathlete Damian Warner has fully recovered from a hamstring strain he suffered at the World Championships last summer and says he feels healthier than at any time in his career.
In an interview with CBC Sports during a training session at Thompson Arena on the Western University campus on Thursday, Warner said whenever he’s had setbacks in the past, he’s come back stronger.
“I’m feeling great right now. All my training has been going really well, my body feels good, I’m happy, I’m healthy,” Warner said. “I feel like I’m in a good place on and off the track. And it’s just coming here every day, working and trying to get better.”
Warner doesn’t want to spend too much time looking back at what his coach Gar Leyshon describes as a “catastrophic” situation that unfolded at the World Cup. Warner led the decathlon after four events and was poised to win his first gold at worlds going into the final event of day one, the 400m.
As he lifted off the blocks on a scorching evening in Eugene, Ore., in late July, Warner pulled up quickly, grabbed his hamstring and winced in pain. It immediately ended its world championship.
“The first reaction is disbelief. And you know horror. It’s like he could only lose that if something catastrophic happened. And that’s what happened,” Leyshon said.
The early diagnosis was that Warner would be out for six to eight weeks with a thigh strain. He was able to jog again three weeks after the injury.
Since then, the 33-year-old from London, Ont. was more motivated than ever to get back in top form. Not only for the worlds next August, but also because he has a lot more in his sights in the future.
“I want to come back to the Olympics and repeat. I want to go to Paris and get another gold medal. But I also want to be the world record holder in the decathlon,” Warner announced without hesitation.
“I think I have what it takes. It’s certainly not going to be easy. But I think if I and my coaches continue the work we’re doing, I’ll get where I want to be.” “
CLOCK | Decathlon Olympic champion Warner on his motivation:
Warner and his team are still trying to answer some of their lingering questions about why he suffered a thigh muscle strain while running the 400m at Welten.
Leyshon believes it has a lot to do with Warner having to run on lane one, which puts a lot of pressure on the leg muscles, having to sprint around a tight corner to start the race.
“I was worried from the start. If you start on lane one, you’ll take the entire corner under acceleration, and you’ll be the only one going through the entire corner under acceleration,” said Leyshon.
“Coming out of that turn, he took a step a little too far with his inside leg and all the pressure went on that hamstring.”
Warner believes it was a number of things that led to his injury and now he’s trying to make his body safe so it doesn’t happen again.
“The decathlon is something of a nightmare. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. And there’s a lot of things that often go wrong when you do a decathlon,” Warner said.
“But I think the beauty of it is, what if I run all 10 events exactly as planned? And I don’t know if there’s anyone in history who’s ever experienced that, but why not be the first to be able to. So that’s what we train for every day, for this imaginary decathlon. Who knows if it exists, but we’ll test our limits to see if it’s possible.”
Warner and his coaches will be heading to some competitions in Louisiana next month to do some final preparations ahead of May’s annual Hypo meeting in Götzis, Austria.
Last May, Warner clinched a decathlon title at the Hypo Meeting for the sixth straight year, taking his overall record to seven.
That will take Warner back to worlds set in Budapest, Hungary in the fall. This will be Warner’s seventh world tour. He has never won gold.
“It’s obviously something I want to strive for every day, but luckily there are many options,” he said.
“At this point in my career there’s no hiding, I want to win a gold medal. That has to be the goal for everyone. Certainly anyone who finishes in the top five has to want to win that gold medal. And there’s no surprise that it does too mine is.”