Damian Warner is the recipient of the 2021 Lou Marsh Award, given annually to Canada’s best athlete.
The 32-year-old decathlete succeeds 2020 co-winners Bayern Munich soccer star Alphonso Davies and former Kansas City Chiefs guard and medical doctor Laurent Duvernay Tardif in accepting the award, which has been given out since 1936.
“This is such an honour and I first wanted to congratulate all those who were nominated. When I look at past recipients, I am humbled to be included with so many great athletes,” Warner said. “This really is an award that I could not have won without the help of my coaches, Team Warner and the London community. Thank you so much.”
Warner, who lives and trains in London, Ontario, won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, beating current world record holder Kevin Mayer of France in the process. At the Games, Warner became only the fourth decathlete in history to eclipse the 9,000-point barrier. His final score of 9,018 points was an Olympic record, and his performance in the 100m, the 110m hurdles and the long jump were all Olympic decathlon bests.
Warner’s performances came in the wake of a challenging training period. He and his coaches had to transform London’s old and unheated Farquharson Arena into a multi-events training hub, after The University of Western Ontario facilities closed through the winter of 2020 because of the pandemic. All the while, Warner was nursing old ankle injuries. He eventually found health, and hit his stride in 2021. Before the Olympics, he missed the 9000-point mark by five points in a preparatory meet in Gotzis, Austria, only to post his best-ever result in Tokyo.
Warner beat out six other finalists for the award, including fellow 2021 Tokyo Olympian and track and field athlete Andre De Grasse. Toronto Star readers had determined the pair of track and field athletes to be the top two candidates for the award, with Warner being the front runner.
Degrasse, a 27-year-old sprinter from Scarborough, Ontario, was a triple medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, winning a pair of bronze medals in the 100m and 4x100m relays, and becoming the first sprinter not named Usain Bolt to win Olympic gold in the men’s 200m since 2004. His time of 19.62 in the Olympic final was a national record, and stands as the eighth fastest 200m time in world history.
“A big congratulations to my teammate Damian for winning the Lou Marsh award,” said De Grasse. “His performance in Tokyo was amazing and he is indeed the greatest all-around athlete in the world.”
Other finalists for the 2021 Lou Marsh award included MLB All-Star Game MVP and Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 2020 Lou Marsh co-winner Alphonso Davies, 2020-21 NHL scoring race champion Connor McDavid, defending Olympic swimming champion in the 100m freestyle Maggie MacNeil, and the goalkeeper for Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s soccer team Stephanie Labbe.
The award is decided by a panel of sports journalists, who start with a long list of candidates and whittle it down to an eventual winner after rounds of cuts.
Other track and field athletes who won the Lou Marsh Award include sprinter and Olympic bronze medalist Phil Edwards in 1936, Olympic 5,000m runner and road racer Bruce Kidd, and Olympic 800m runner Bill Crothers. Most recently, Olympic 100m gold medalist and former world record holder Donovan Bailey was crowned the winner in 1996.
Photo by Stephen Hosier/COC
Story courtesy of Athletics Canada.