By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
To get to the Olympics, it takes a lot of skill and determination on the part of an athlete, but sometimes a little luck along the way is needed to get to the end goal.
In the case of Damian Warner, 22, his break came as a Grade 11 student when Montcalm Secondary School started a track team — his first steps towards becoming a world-class decathlete.
Focused more on basketball, his high school hoop coaches, Gar Leyshon and Dennis Nielsen, had to convince him to step into track and field.
“Just watch him jog on the treadmill, you’re like ‘Who the hell is that'?” said Leyshon about his star.
In Grade 12, Warner collected his first bronze medal at the Ontario high school championships in long jump and now finds himself a stride away from competing in the decathlon at this year’s Summer Olympics held in London, England.
The young athlete has almost mastered the 10-discipline sport and hit the Canadian B-standard of 7,950 points in his last meet at the James Click Shootout Multis in Arizona when he totaled 7,977 — in only his fifth decathlon.
“Every single competition I’ve gotten better. Most of the time I’ve had a personal best,” Warner said, upping his time in the 110 metre hurdles to 13.61 and shot put distance to 13.74 metres in the last big event. “I’ve been improving by a lot.”
Warner has one last chance to hit the 8,000 Canadian A-standard when he goes to Austria at the end of May for the Hypo Track and Field Meet. Toppling the mark would solidify his seat to the Olympics, but so far Warner has come the closest to the A-Standard in Canada. If no Canadian gets the A-standard at the Austrian meet, Warner will be classified as a rising star and will qualify for the Olympics.
“I expect that I’m going to get 8,200 plus (in Austria), so if I didn’t get that it would be pretty upsetting,” said the soft-spoken Warner. The remark could have come off cocky considering no Canadian has come close to hitting the mark this year, but the London athlete is always striving for more.
“I think you just got to be confident with your ability going in,” he said. “I think last year going to the World Championships that was the stepping stone in my mind, but this Olympics I’d like to be on the podium and I believe I can.”
His hopeful results could be realistic because training is Warner’s job and always keeping close to his roots. Luck helped him get into track and field, but hard work will be his success.
Warner trains six days a week at the track at TD Waterhouse Stadium and four days in the weight room, where he sometimes heads back to Montcalm to workout. He has more than the normal amount of coaches for a decathlete, but still he keeps Leyshon and Nielsen close in his camp.
“I drove him to every practice, I dragged him out of bed, all that kind of stuff … he doesn’t need that as much anymore,” Leyshon said, adding the reason he became a track and field coach is because of Warner.
If anybody can rightfully predict the athlete’s success, it’s Vickie Croley. The Western University track and field coach meets her pupil four times a week for about two hours at a time and has seen his development firsthand on the rubber track.
“The fact is, he can start the 100 metre event and potentially win or finish in the top three and that sets him up well for the rest,” Croley said, pointing out the event kicks off the decathlon. “He can be in the sport for two or three Olympics because of the time it takes to develop and he certainly has the tools to be the best in the world down the road.”
The prediction is along the same lines as Warner’s.
“I want to make this one (Olympics), the next one and the one after that.”