Canada’s Warner defends Pan Am decathlon title, teammate LePage wins bronze

LIMA, Peru — Canadian decathlete Damian Warner lay on the pole vault mat for a good five seconds Wednesday night after missing a third and final attempt at a height he normally clears.

Frustration etched across his face, a decision to change poles proved fruitless. A nagging ankle injury wasn’t helping matters and the cold weather and some cramping were on his mind too.

Warner still managed to persevere through the challenges over the two-day event en route to a second straight Pan Am title.

Clearing a lower height in pole vault had essentially given him enough points in the overall standings and he closed with solid performances in the javelin and 1,500 metres for the victory.

“It was a hard-fought battle but a win is a win,” Warner said.

He finished with 8,513 points, well ahead of Lindon Victor of Grenada (8,240). Warner’s teammate, Pierce LePage, took the bronze with 8,161.

Warner rebounded after missing 4.60 metres in the pole vault with a throw of 59.48 metres in the javelin. He was second in the 1,500 with a time of four minutes 38.31 seconds.

“Everybody ended up about where I expected them to but they were all 200 or 300 points below what I thought they’d do,” Warner’s coach, Gar Leyshon, said of the field. “It was a lot tougher on them than I thought it would be. This was not the easiest of conditions.”

Temperatures at the Videna Athletics Stadium hovered in the mid-teens through the afternoon under overcast skies. But the mercury fell in the early evening when the sun went down.

Warner and LePage were wrapped in thick black blankets when they came out for the last two events. Another athlete was sporting a heavy poncho over his warmup gear. Other competitors were wearing tuques, ear warmers and gloves.

“I think everybody was taken by surprise,” Leyshon said.

Both Canadians were battling injuries. LePage tweaked his knee at the national championship while Warner, from London, Ont., is dealing with a bone spur in his left ankle.

Warner said the adrenalin often helps him forget the pain but it did bother him a bit in the pole vault and high jump.

“I’m liking how it’s progressing and I’m liking how it’s feeling going into (worlds at) Doha,” he said. “I think that I’m ready for a bigger score there.”

While many countries sent B-teams to the Pan Ams, decathlon was solid with three of the top seven athletes in the world rankings in the field.

Competitors are also looking to prepare for the Sept. 27-Oct. 6 world championship in Qatar and have an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Warner has been focusing on making strides with his javelin and pole vault this season.

“It’s a little bit frustrating,” he said. “Pole vault in particular has gone really well over the last little while and I wasn’t able to show that today.”

After clearing his opening effort at 4.40 metres, Warner moved up a pole but found it was too stiff. He went back to the other pole for his last jump but found it was too soft.

“I think that was a lesson there,” he said.

Both Warner, who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Games, and LePage have already secured spots for Tokyo.

With 4,499 points, Warner — the 2015 world silver medallist — started the day on a better pace than at the halfway point of the Toronto Pan Ams.

The Canadians started 1-2 with Warner holding an 81-point cushion after the 100 metres, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400 metres on Day 1.

They picked up where they left off in the 110-metre hurdles as Warner wasn’t challenged in 13.68 seconds. LePage, from Whitby, Ont., followed in 14.15 but struggled in the discus with an 11th-place finish (38.85).

Warner, meanwhile, threw a season-best 48.82 metres to finish second to Victor’s effort of 50.83. LePage was tops in the pole vault at 5.10 metres, 20 centimetres ahead of Victor.

Currently ranked second in the world behind Kevin Mayer of France, Warner holds the Canadian record of 8,795 points. He won the prestigious Gotzis Hypo Meeting last May.

LePage is ranked seventh in the world.

Also Wednesday, Timothy Nedow of Brockville, Ont., finished fourth in the men’s shot put and Lindsey Butterworth of North Vancouver, B.C., finished fifth in the women’s 800 metres in 2:02.68.

Keira Christie-Galloway of Ottawa did not qualify for the women’s 100-metre hurdles final and Phylicia George of Markham, Ont., withdrew from the semifinal due to a gastrointestinal illness.

In the women’s 400, Kyra Constantine of Toronto qualified for the final with a fourth-place finish (52.92) in her semifinal heat.

Natassha McDonald of Brampton, Ont., was fourth in her semi (53.15) but didn’t advance. The top three finishers in each semifinal qualified along with the next two fastest runners.

In the women’s 100, Toronto’s Crystal Emmanuel was seventh in 11.41. Toronto’s Philip Osei did not qualify for the men’s 400-metre final.

Warner helped anchor a strong Canadian athletics team that won 27 medals (11 gold, seven silver, nine bronze) in Toronto four years ago. Canada essentially sent a split A-team/B-team to Lima with big names like Andre De Grasse, Melissa Bishop and Derek Drouin not on the roster.

Competition continues at the Videna facility through Saturday. Race walks are set for Sunday at nearby Kennedy Park on the closing day of the Games.

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