By Steve Keating
LIMA (Reuters) – While a successful defense of his Pan Am Games decathlon title on Wednesday was the result Damian Warner had been aiming for, the chilly conditions meant it was not the world championships ‘warm-up’ the Canadian was expecting.
“It’s cold,” said Warner, wrapping himself in the Canadian flag for a bit of warmth as much as pride.
“It’s tough, especially coming from Ontario where it has been super hot then coming here where the sun is never really out and it is on the chilly side.”
The overcast, dreary conditions of Peru’s winter have seen athletes bring out mittens and wool hats, while the decathletes brought blankets from their hotels to wrap themselves in between the 10 events of the gruelling two-day competition.
While the Canadian spends as much of the year in the snow as he does in the sun, Warner was caught a little off-guard by the conditions, which may have prevented him from improving his Games record of 8,659 points set four years ago in Toronto.
However, he was still a class apart in an elite field that boasted three of the world’s top five decathletes, posting a score of 8,513 to finish comfortably ahead of Grenada’s Lindon Victor, the Commonwealth Games gold medalist, who took silver with 8,240.
Warner’s team mate Pierce LePage held on for bronze with
The conditions in Lima will be far different from the blazing temperatures Warner can expect to face in October at the world championships in Doha where he will try to improve on the silver he won four years ago in Beijing.
“Doha is going to be a lot hotter, you can’t really compare the weather, that will present different challenges,” said Warner. “Mini-challenges we faced here can be taken into Doha.”
The battle for gold in Doha is shaping up as one of the championships’ most intriguing duels with Warner renewing his rivalry with Kevin Mayer, the French world record holder and reigning world champion.
Decathletes compete only two or three times a season so when they do it is always an occasion.
Before next year’s Tokyo Olympics, Warner will compete at the world championships as well as decathlon’s unofficial worlds in Goetzis, Austria next year.
With 2016 Olympic champion Ashton Eaton having retired, the gold medal will be up for grabs in Tokyo with Rio silver medalist Mayer and bronze medalist Warner the favorites.
The only decathlete to score higher than Warner over the last three years has been Mayer.
“I know when we go to Doha there is going to be no moment early on when you’re going to think this is over,” said Warner. “You have to be on the whole time.
“Some guys will put up really good scores and will be out there pushing all the way through to the end and you have to be ready for that.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)