Canada's Pierce LePage captures silver in world championship decathlon

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EUGENE, Ore. — Canada's Pierce LePage has flirted with the global decathlon podium numerous times, but one or two poor events would invariably see him tumble down the results.

Not this time.

In an event that requires consistency over two gruelling days, the 26-year-old from Whitby, Ont., reeled off one excellent performance after another, to collect silver in the decathlon at the world track and field championships on Sunday, the Canadian team's fourth and final medal of the meet.

"The big thing for me is that I've been so close for the past couple of years," LePage said. "I've always been high in the standings and then drop off near the end, and it was so much disappointment. To finally be on top … to stay on the podium is amazing."

The six-foot-eight LePage, who's long competed in the shadows of Canada's Olympic champion Damian Warner, scored a personal best 8,701 points. Warner's quest for his first decathlon world title, meanwhile, ended in heartbreak the previous night when he suffered a hamstring injury during the 400 metres.

World record-holder Kevin Mayer of France won gold with 8,816 points, while American Zach Ziemek took the bronze (8,676).

LePage, who was fifth at both the Tokyo Olympics and 2019 world championships, led for much of Day 2 after personal bests in the 400 metres, 110-metre hurdles and discus, and an excellent 5.00 metres in pole vault, but dropped a place behind Mayer after the javelin, the decathlon's penultimate event.

The 1,500 metres became an intense battle between LePage and Ziemek for silver.

"I had to figure out whether I wanted to go try to beat Kevin (Mayer for gold), or play it safe and go for the medal," LePage said.

After rehabilitating an injury for a good chunk of the season, and the fact he'd have to beat Mayer by a significant margin for gold, LePage decided to stick on Ziemek and outkick the American for silver.

"I won't lie, I was the most scared I've ever been in a 1,500 because I haven't had much fitness training for it," LePage said. "I've had like five or six workouts the entire year for the 1,500. And I'm like, I'm just sticking with this guy (Ziemek), and then kick it in."

Warner, who has won world silver and bronze, had led the field through the first four events of Day 1 before he pulled up about 120 metres into the 400, clutching his left hamstring.

"Since I've done big international meets, it's always been Damian and I together . . . obviously I feel for him," LePage said. "At the time I had no idea, I was still running. But even though a teammate goes out, I've still gotta go get the job done. And hopefully I made him happy."

LePage said he hadn't seen Warner since his injury.

"Hopefully he's doing well," he said.

LePage opened Day 2 by crushing his hurdles personal best of 14.05 seconds, running 13.78.

"Wasn't expecting it," he said. "Then, first throw, huge discus P.B., just walk off, you know, had some nice swagger to it."

Canada's other medallists were the men's 4x100-metre relay team, which won gold, Camryn Rogers, who won silver in women's hammer throw, and Marco Arop, who raced to bronze in the men's 800 metres. Canada had 14 top-eight results.

The Canadian women's 4x400-metre relay team of Natassha McDonald, Aiyanna Stiverne, Zoe Sherar and Kyra Constantine capped the competition with a fourth-place finish, the identical result as last summer's Olympics.

The Americans, anchored by Sydney McLaughlin, who earlier in the meet shattered her own world 400 hurdles record, won the gold.

And earlier Sunday, Moh Ahmed of St. Catharines, Ont., was fifth in the men's 5,000 metres, the event in which he won silver at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 31-year-old was in medal contention with about 150 metres to go.

"I was just trying to just stay tethered to (the leaders) and with 100 metres to go, I was like: all right, come on, try and like hit it, hit it, hit it. And I think I started over-striding a little bit, and the last 50 I was just buckling.

"So, unfortunate, but … I put myself in it, I was as close as I needed to be within striking distance, and I just run out of gas."

And Olympic bronze medallist Evan Dunfee of Richmond, B.C., was sixth in the men's 35-kilometre race walk, a solid result after battling both a hamstring injury and mental health issues this season.

"To come away with sixth after the year it's been, it's been a struggle for me this year, it's been physically and emotionally and mentally a little bit tough,'' Dunfee said. "So to get sixth, I'm thrilled with this, and to have my family and friends out here on the sidelines cheering me on, that was awesome.''

The 31-year-old, who sat around 12th place for much of the race before moving up through the final few kilometres, crossed in two hours 25 minutes two seconds.

Italy's Massimo Stano won gold in 2:23.14.

Dunfee captured bronze both at last summer's Tokyo Olympics and the 2019 world championships in Doha.

"I got used to the podium,'' Dunfee said with a laugh. "It's always disappointing to not be on there. Not disappointing, disappointing's the wrong word. But, it's something that, as much as I told myself — and I am really proud of this race — but you're still like, ah, that podium's fun to stand on.

"But no, I think today was a really good race."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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