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Dylan Armstrong doesn’t disappoint large crowd and books ticket to London Games with shot put win at Canadian Olympic trials

Jim Morris
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Dylan Armstrong is one of Canada's best chances for gold in London

CALGARY - A slippery throwing surface wasn't going to trip up one of Canada's best chances for an Olympic track medal at Saturday's Canadian Track and Field Trials.

Dylan Armstrong managed to keep his feet underneath him and officially booked his ticket to this summer's London Games by winning the shot put with a heave of 21.29 metres.

There was nothing unexpected about Armstrong winning. His throw was a little less than a metre longer than second-place finisher Justin Rodhe. But the burly Kamloops, B.C., native had to tread lightly on a smooth, concrete surface in the throwing circle.

"I'm really happy with the result today,'' said Armstrong, who rarely looks unhappy about anything. "It was a bit challenging with the circle definitely a lot slicker than last year.

"I had to make some technical changes. I couldn't really push and had to slow down the beginning of my throw. I probably could have whacked one out there further.''

Armstrong was also pleased to see Rodhe launch a throw of 20.30 metres and third-place finisher Timothy Nedow toss 20.21.

"That's very impressive,'' he said.

During the competition Armstrong shouted encouragement to the other throwers and clapped his massive hands when someone managed a good toss. He also spent time conferring with his coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk.

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Bondarchuk, who won the gold medal in hammer throw at the 1972 Olympics, was head of the throwing program in the former USSR for 16 years. He speaks limited English, which is still better than Armstrong's Russian. The two communicate with a few words and plenty of hand gestures.

"We don't argue much,'' Armstrong said. "I just listen. He's the guy that's got me to where I am.''

The speedy sprinters and lean high-jumpers usually steal the show at a track meet, but Armstrong drew a crowd of over 300 people to the shot put. Their was silence each time he stepped into the throwing circle. The thud of the shot hitting the grass was followed by cheers and applause.

"Today was about having fun, giving the people here a chance to see what we do,'' Armstrong said. "It (the crowd) has grown. That's a good thing. We are on the right track with that.''

After the competition people crowded around the fence seeking Armstrong's autograph. Programs, pieces of paper and hats were dangled.

Two young women turned around so Armstrong could sign the back of their T-shirts. There was a moment of hesitation when a third woman began to lift up her T-shirt. All she wanted was the front signed.

"Oh, on your stomach,'' Armstrong said with a laugh.

A big man with a barrel chest and arms like tree trunks, Armstrong matches his six-foot-four, 345-pound bulk with a huge smile and deep laugh.

"How ya doing buddy,'' he said as a greeting to a reporter earlier this week.

Armstrong was the poster boy for the Canadian trials. His picture was on the front of the meet's program, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, a shot cradled at his neck, white chalk smeared across his fingers and face.

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He heads to London as a legitimate medal threat after missing the podium at the 2008 Beijing Games by about the distance of a finger nail.

The 31-year-old has been a consistent top-three finisher in Diamond League meets this year and won a silver medal at last year's world championships. At last year's nationals he set a Canadian record of 22.21 metres.

Winning an Olympic medal won't be easy. The best shot put throw this year is 22.00 metres by American Reese Hoffa. That's about half a metre better than Armstrong's best toss of 21.50 metres. Besides Hoffa, five other men have thrown farther than Armstrong this year.

Armstrong figures he needs to throw 22 metres to have a chance.

"It's very deep,'' he said about the field. "Anyone of us can win on the day.

"I'm going to go in there and throw the best I can throw.''

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