Canada's Damian Warner picked up right where he left off in the decathlon. Now, he's two events away from a gold medal.
The London, Ont., native recorded an Olympic best — his third through eight events in Tokyo — with a time of 13.46 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles on Thursday in Japan. He then posted the third-farthest discus throw in the field at 48.67 metres and cleared a personal-best 4.90 metres in pole vault to maintain his spot atop the decathlon standings.
Warner now sits at 7,490 points, comfortably ahead of 21-year-old Australian Ashley Moloney in second (7,269).
"You go through the whole battle of the decathlon and when you finally finish and you get the result you're looking for, there's no greater feeling. If I finish this off, this is a dream come true," Warner said.
The Canadian said he was particularly pleased with his pole vault, giving credit to his coaches for helping him improve one of his weaker events.
"They've been persistent and stuck with me, and I think there's a lot more bars in my future, but I'm really happy with how today went and it's time to finish this thing off," Warner said.
WATCH | Warner clears personal-best 4.90 metres in pole vault:
Fellow Canadian Pierce LePage, a 25-year-old making his Olympic debut, was fifth in Warner's hurdles heat, seventh overall in discus and eighth in pole vault, but still managed to hold on to his third-place standing entering the day.
LePage's 7,175 points put him just ahead of decathlon world-record holder and reigning silver medallist Kevin Mayer of France, who is sitting fourth at 7,129.
"If you're doing not bad in most of your decathlon then you know something good is going to happen at the end," LePage, of Whitby, Ont., said.
WATCH | Warner wins 110m hurdles:
In hurdles, Warner sped to the front of the pack quickly and never relinquished his lead, despite knocking a gate over in the process. He waved and said hi to partner Jen Cotten, their son Theo and his mom after he crossed the finish line.
Despite the Olympic best, Warner himself has done better, setting the world-best of 13.36 seconds at the Hypo-Meeting in Austria in May. That time helped the Canadian set a national record of 8,995 points overall — the fourth best in history.
LePage, of Whitby, Ont., posted a time of 14.39 seconds in the hurdles. His personal best is 14.05. He threw 47.14 metres in discus, also well off his personal best of 50.28.
Warner also fell short of both his career best (50.26) and season best (48.74) in discus, with his first throw standing as his top result.
Pole vault has previously caused Warner problems, like at the 2019 Commonwealth Games when he failed to record a height. But the 31-year-old persevered after missing his first two attempts at 4.90 metres to clear his third. Moloney, who cleared five metres, only gained 30 points on the Canadian in the event.
LePage, who said the heat in Tokyo was more excruciating for the pole vault because of the length of the event, also cleared five metres.
"Want to do better in all three [events] but they weren't too off where I wanted to be. That pole vault was something I've never experienced before — really hot out there. But nothing you can do besides look forward to the next two events and make up those points," he said.
Javelin,1,500m still to come
The decathlon wraps up with javelin and the 1,500-metre beginning Thursday at 6:15 a.m. ET.
Thursday's results extended Warner's lead in the competition where the top-ranked decathlete is eyeing his first Olympic gold medal. Warner earned bronze at the 2016 Rio Games.
Warner is coming off an extraordinary winter that saw him train in an empty, unheated hockey arena that his coaches converted to a multi-events facility after COVID-19 shut down the University of Western Ontario fieldhouse. He and his coaches built a long jump pit, brought in a pole jump pit, built a throwing circle and laid down a 40-metre section of track.
On Wednesday in Tokyo, Warner tied his decathlon world-best in the 100-metre, then put down a long jump of 8.24 metres, 0.04 off his world best and an Olympic record in the sport.
WATCH | Warner ties 100m world best: