Damian Warner in the decathlon discus at the Tokyo Olympic Games (© AFP / Getty Images)
Damian Warner, one of the world’s best decathletes for the best part of a decade, fulfilled two of his lifelong goals in one go in Tokyo, winning decathlon gold with an Olympic record of 9018.
The Canadian became just the fourth man in history to break the 9000-point barrier, joining decathlon legends Roman Sebrle, Ashton Eaton and Kevin Mayer. Warner also landed his first global title, having finished in the top five at the past six outdoor global championships, picking up Olympic bronze in 2016 as well as world silver in 2015 and world bronze in 2013 and 2019.
The 31-year-old won in style, too, leading from the very first event and setting three Olympic decathlon bests along the way. The first of those came in the 100m, the opening discipline, as Warner sped to a 10.14 clocking.
He then extended his lead with an 8.24m leap in the long jump – another Olympic decathlon best and farther than the bronze-medal-winning leap in the individual event.
His main rival, world record-holder Kevin Mayer, also got off to a good start, clocking 10.68 in the 100m and leaping 7.50m in the long jump. But he was behind 21-year-old Australian Ashley Moloney, who had an impressive start with 10.34 in the 100m and 7.64m in the long jump, and Canada’s Pierce LePage.
Warner continued the series of his life on the first day with 14.80m in the shot, 2.02m in the high jump and 47.48 in the 400m, ending the day still in first place with 4722.
Moloney briefly dropped to third after the shot put (14.49m) but moved back into second place after producing the best marks of the day in the high jump (2.11m) and 400m (46.29). LePage ended the first day in third, helped by a 15.31m shot put and a 46.92 run in the 400m.
Mayer, who always excels on the second day, was fifth after the first five events, just two points ahead of US champion Garrett Scantling.
The second day started in much the same way as the first – with Warner setting an Olympic decathlon best.
He sped to a 13.46 clocking in the 110m hurdles – a time that would have been good enough to reach the semifinals of the individual event. Mayer (13.90), Scantling (14.03) and Moloney (14.08) were next best, maintaining their top-five positions.
Warner, Moloney, LePage and Mayer held on to the top four spots respectively after the discus and pole vault. The 30-centimetre difference between Warner (4.90m) and Mayer (5.20m) in the pole vault effectively meant the Canadian was on his way to victory as Mayer would not realistically be able to make up 361 points on Warner in the remaining two events.
World silver medallist Maicel Uibo was the top performer in the pole vault, clearing 5.50m, but the Estonian was never really in medal contention in Tokyo.
A 63.44m throw in the javelin put Warner on course for a 9000-point score as it meant he only needed to run about 4:33 in the 1500m to achieve his goal. Mayer wasn’t done, though; he launched his spear to a lifetime best of 73.09m to move into second place. Scantling moved into fourth, between Moloney and LePage, after throwing 69.10m.
Warner started conservatively in the 1500m, but on the final lap he realised he was at risk at letting his target time slip by. He dug in and started a long kick for home, navigating his way through the field to clock 4:31.08.
Within seconds, his performance was confirmed on the scoreboard: gold with a 9018 national and Olympic record.
It took a few more moments before the full field’s scores appeared, then it was confirmed: silver for Mayer with 8726, and bronze for Moloney with 8649, an improvement on his own Oceania record and the first Olympic decathlon medal by an athlete from his continent.
For Mayer, it was his second successive silver medal, having won a world title and broken the world record since his last silver in Rio. For 21-year-old Moloney it was a huge breakthrough moment, producing a score that no younger athlete has ever bettered.
In one of the highest-quality Olympic decathlons of all time, five men exceeded 8600 points and eight bettered 8400. Scantling finished fourth with 8611 and LePage placed fifth with a PB of 8604.
“It’s crazy,” said Warner. “Ever since I was kid watching track and field on TV with my mom, I’ve wanted to be an athlete. In grade six I wrote a school project, saying I wanted to be at the Olympics one day. Who knew I’d go on to be an Olympic champion?
“You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself. In 2016 I finished third. While I was happy with the bronze medal, I was disappointed that I didn’t finish on top of the podium. I used that as motivation these past two days. I couldn’t be happier for myself or my team.”
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics
|MEN'S DECATHLON MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Damian Warner 🇨🇦 CAN||9018 OR|
|🥈||Kevin Mayer 🇫🇷 FRA||8726 SB|
|🥉||Ashley Moloney 🇦🇺 AUS||8649 AR|