TOKYO — Canada’s sprint canoe and decathlon competitors got off to strong starts on Wednesday as the country continues to look for its 15th medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Canada’s Damian Warner opened his quest for an Olympic decathlon title in assertive fashion, running 10.12 seconds in the 100 metres to tie his decathlon world record in the event.
The 31-year-old from London, Ont., held a commanding lead after three of 10 events, after following up his 100 metres with a good performance in the shot put and a spectacular one in the long jump.
Warner soared 8.24 metres, the longest in Olympic decathlon history, and a distance that would have earned him a bronze medal in the open men’s long jump earlier in the week.
Canadian teammate Pierce LePage was second overall with 2,773 points, while Australian Ashley Moloney was third with 2,741.
LePage, from Whitby, Ont., ran the 100 in 10.43, the third-fastest time on the morning. His 7.65 metres in long jump was second-best, and his throw of 15.31 in shot put was fourth.
Warner is the No. 1-ranked decathlete in the world this year after shattering his Canadian record at the Hypo-Meeting in Gotzis, Austria. His score of 8,995 there was the fourth best in history.
Athletes still have the high jump and 400 metres on Wednesday, amid gruelling conditions that include heat in the 30s that feels like 40 C-plus with humidity. Thursday events are the 110-metre hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and the 1,500 metres.
At Sea Forest Waterway, Canadian canoe sprinter Laurence Vincent-Lapointe roared back from an unwanted two-year hiatus to win first place in her heat and advance to the semifinals of the women’s canoe single 200-metre race.
Vincent-Lapointe, a seven-time world champion at the distance, hadn’t competed since the spring of 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a positive drug test that almost upended her career. She was cleared in January 2020 when the International Canoe Federation accepted she was the victim of third-party contamination.
The 29-year-old from Trois-Rivières, Que. marked a time of 45.408 seconds at Sea Forest Waterway, which was enough to win her heat and move her straight to the semifinals. Teammate Katie Vincent, of Mississauga, Ont. also won her heat in a time of 46.391 and will move on to Thursday’s semis.
Vincent-Lapointe has dominated her sport for much of the last decade, but for a time it appeared she wouldn’t get the chance to fight for a medal in her sport’s first Olympic appearance.
“There’s been moments when I could have thought I wouldn’t make it, but deep down, I always felt I would make it,” she said.
“Even three years ago when I learned women’s canoe would be at the Olympics, I said that I would be there. Through everything that happened, I believed I would be here.”
While Warner and Vincent-Lapointe are considered podium hopefuls, their events wrap up later in the week.
However, several Canadian athletes will get a chance to try to add to the country’s 14 medals on Wednesday.
In track, sprinters Andre de Grasse and Aaron Brown will compete in the 200-metre final after strong performances in the semis. De Grasse set a new Canadian record as he won his heat in the fastest time of the night, while Brown also ran sub-20 seconds to win his own heat in a photo finish.
Other Canadians will compete in medal rounds in the 3000-metre steeplechase, equestrian show jumping and artistic swimming.
In other canoe-kayak competition, Michelle Russell of Fall River, N.S., qualified for the semifinals of the kayak single 500 metres after finishing third in her quarterfinal.
On the men’s side, Toronto’s Nicholas Matveev qualified for the semifinals after finishing second in his quarterfinal heat for the men’s kayak single 200-metre.
In golf, Canadians and Brooke Henderson both struggled in the first round of the women’s tournament. The Canadians are well down the leaderboard after shooting 3-over 74 rounds at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug 4, 2021.