Olympic champion Damian Warner aims for decathlon world record after ‘catastrophic’ injury

Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner has fully recovered from a hamstring strain he suffered at last summer’s world championships and says he feels healthier than at any time in his career.

In an interview with CBC Sports during a practice inside Thompson Arena on the Western Campus on Thursday, Warner said that whenever he’s faced setbacks in the past during his career, he comes back stronger.

“I feel great right now. All my training is going really well, my body feels good, I’m happy, I’m healthy. I feel like I’m in a good place on the track and off. And it’s just a matter of coming here every day working and trying to get better,” Warner said.

Warner doesn’t want to spend too much time looking back on what his coach Gar Leyshon calls a “catastrophic” situation that unfolded at worlds. Warner led the decathlon after four races and was poised to win his first gold at worlds going into the final race of the first day, the 400m race.

As he took off from the blocks on a scorching night in Eugene, Ore., in late July, Warner quickly stood up, clutching his hamstring and wincing in pain. The world championship ended immediately.

“The initial reaction is disbelief. And you know, horror. It’s like, the only way to lose this is if something catastrophic happened. And that’s what happened,” Leyshon said.

Warner, front right, consults with his coaches Gar Leyshon, left, and Dennis Nielsen during a practice Thursday. (Aaron Dutra/CBC Sports)

The early diagnosis was that Warner would be out for six to eight weeks with a hamstring strain. He returned to jogging three weeks after the injury.

Since then the 33-year-old from London, Ont. he’s more motivated than ever to return to top form not only for worlds this coming August, but he’s also looking to much more for his future.

“I want to go back to the Olympics and repeat. I want to go to Paris and bring back another gold medal. But I also want to be the world record holder in the decathlon,” Warner said without hesitation.

“I think I have what it takes to do it. It certainly won’t be easy. But I think if me and my coaches keep up the work we’re doing, I’ll get to where I want to be.”

WATCHES | Olympic decathlon champion Warner discusses what drives him:

Damian Warner on what motivates him after record-breaking decathlon gold

Olympic decathlon gold medalist Damian Warner spoke with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing and shared why it’s so important for him to stay humble and what drives him after breaking the Olympic record for decathlon points.

Warner and his team are still trying to answer some of their lingering questions about why he suffered the hamstring strain while running the 400 meters at worlds.

Leyshon believes it has a lot to do with Warner having to run in the front lane, which puts a lot of stress on the leg muscles as he needs to sprint around a tight corner to start the race.

“I was worried from the beginning. When you start in lane 1, you run the whole curve as you accelerate and you’re the only one who runs the whole curve as you accelerate,” Leyshon said.

“So coming out of that turn, he took a step a little too wide with his inside leg and all the pressure went into that hamstring.”

An athlete sits on the ground to rest during a training session.
Warner, who appeared during a practice session on Thursday, is gearing up for another chance to win his first world championship gold medal at the upcoming stop in Budapest in August. (Aaron Dutra/CBC Sports)

Warner believes it was a series of things that led to his injury and is now trying to protect his body so it doesn’t happen again.

“The decathlon is kind of a nightmare. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong. And there’s a lot of things that often go wrong when you’re doing a decathlon,” Warner said.

“But I think the beauty of it is what if I get all ten events to go exactly as I planned? And I don’t know if there’s anyone in history who’s ever experienced that, but why shouldn’t I be the first to be able to it does that So that’s why we train every day, it’s for this fantastic decathlon. Who knows if it exists, but we’re going to test our limits to see if it’s possible.”

Warner and his coaches will head to two competitions in Louisiana next month for some final preparations ahead of the annual Hypo meeting in Götzis, Austria in May.

Last May, Warner won a sixth consecutive Hypo Meeting decathlon title, extending his record to seven.

This will lead Warner back to the worlds in Budapest, Hungary in the fall. This will be Warner’s seventh trip to worlds. He has never won gold.

“It’s obviously something I try to push myself every day. But luckily for me, there are a lot of opportunities,” he said.

“At this point in my career I don’t hide it, I want to win a gold medal. That should be the goal for everyone. Certainly anyone who is ranked in the top five should want to win that gold medal. And it’s no surprise that they are and mine”.

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