Canadian decathlete Pierce LePage wins silver at World Athletics Championships

Canada’s Pierce LePage has captured the country’s fourth medal at the World Athletics Championships after winning silver in the decathlon on Sunday night in Eugene, Ore.

It’s his first world championship medal and he did it with a personal-best score of 8,701.

LePage put together three consecutive personal-best performances in the 400 metres, 110m hurdles and then in the discus event to put him in second spot going into the 1,500m.

His time of 4:42.77 in the final event was good enough for second spot overall in the decathlon.

“It’s hard to put into words. I feel I’ve come so close before; I’ve always ended up just missing it,” LePage told CBC Sports.

“Today that obviously didn’t happen. I opened up with two amazing personal bests. I wasn’t really expecting it. After day one I wasn’t broken, I could finally compete again. It feels good to do a decathlon and feel healthy.”

WATCH | Pierce LePage captures silver at athletics worlds:

World record holder Kevin Mayer of France, after strong performances in pole vault and javelin, was able to hold on in the 1,500m to win gold. His final score was 8,816. It’s his second world title.

American Zach Ziemek won bronze with a final score of 8,676.

WATCH | LePage reflects on winning silver:

LePage had the lead going into the final two events, but despite a season-best throw in the javelin of 57.52 metres, he fell behind Mayer going into the last event.

The 26-year-old from Whitby, Ont., was able to maintain his lead just an event earlier by clearing 5.00m in the pole vault — an event he enjoys.

“You train all day, every day, all the time. Pole vault is my favourite event. It’s pretty rewarding to jump in the air.”

Earlier Sunday, LePage was brimming with confidence.

He fired the discus a whopping 53.26 metres to rocket to the top of the leaderboard. It’s a full two metres farther than his previous best throw in the event.

WATCH | LePage takes lead with discus throw:

Just before that, LePage clocked a personal-best time of 13.78 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles, the fastest time of all competitors, to pull within 108 points of second.

Despite the strong run, LePage admits hurdles are a challenge for him.

“I hate hurdles with a passion,” the six-foot-seven decathlete said.

“People say to me all the time I’m so tall and it would be so easy to get over them. I’m too tall. I’m stutter-stepping. It’s frustrating.”

WATCH | LePage posts top time in hurdles:

On Saturday night, LePage finished day one of competition with his best-ever performance in the 400m to go from fifth to second.

LePage ran the 400m in a time of 46.84 to put himself within striking distance of gold going into the final day.

Olympic champ forced to withdraw

While LePage was speeding across the track on Saturday night, disaster struck for Canadian Olympic champion Damian Warner.

Shortly into the 400m, Warner grabbed his left hamstring, hobbled for a few steps and then fell to the Hayward Field track.

WATCH | Damian Warner suffers injury:

He lay there for a number of minutes before being helped up. It was a gut-wrenching scene for the 32-year-old who was looking for his first world title.

“I’m not sure what happened. I felt my hamstring pull a couple of times. I was in lane one so it felt like it was pretty tight. I was trying to stay in my lane. I felt like something went wrong and I couldn’t continue,” he told CBC Sports.

WATCH | Damian Warner emotional after ‘disappointing’ end:

LePage has been Warner’s understudy for years, watching his every move at every meet and trying to keep up with the Olympic champion.

“Damian is a great friend. A great competitor. Every meet I’ve gone to he’s been there. He’s the lead by example guy,” LePage said.

He recalls a story when they were in Tokyo preparing for the 400m.

“He was having shots of balsamic vinegar. I was having mustard packets. We were looking at each other in disgust and bonding over that. Gotta keep that lactic acid down,” LePage said.

“I ran a PB so there will be more mustard packets in my future. But I did take a balsamic shot with him. It might be the only time Damian takes shots.”

LePage, who finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, started the competition on Saturday by running the second-fastest 100m in a time of 10.39. He finished fifth as well at the last world championships in Doha three years ago.

WATCH l Warner, LePage 1-2 after 100m:

LePage has been quiet about the fact that during the Olympics last summer he competed with a torn patella — he didn’t want it to be a distraction or a reason to not compete at his best.

“I learned a lot of resilience. It was a pretty big tear,” he said. “I had a torn patella the entire meet. I don’t like having excuses. It was an experience I will never forget and I learned from it.”

LePage says he’s feeling great and is now fully recovered from the injury.

In the long jump event, LePage, who has a personal-best distance of 7.80m, posted a result of 7.54m. That was a season-best distance for LePage and gave him 945 points for a total of 1,946.

Despite struggling on his first two shot put attempts, LePage was able to find his form on his final throw.

Then it was time for the high jump.

LePage, who had dropped to fourth position after shot put, attempted his first jump at a height of 1.96m in the other group.

He failed to clear it to start but was able to soar easily over the bar on his second effort — that was a season-best jump by LePage. But he wasn’t done there.

LePage promptly cleared 1.99m on his first attempt, racking up valuable points in the standings. However, he was unable to clear 2.02m, having to settle for 794 points. That dropped LePage to fifth heading into the final event of day one.

That’s when LePage was able to post a personal-best time of 46.84 in the 400m to close out day one and shoot him up the standings to second.

Ahmed finishes 5th in men’s 5,000m final

Canada’s Moh Ahmed finished his World Athletics Championship with a fifth-place finish in the men’s 5,000m on Sunday night at Hayward Field.

The 31-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont., was in the bronze medal position with about 100 metres to go in the race after a powerful last kick but was unable to hold on for a medal.

Ahmed stopped the clock in a time of 13:10.46.

“That was probably the best worlds’ field ever assembled. Disappointed obviously but [I] have to come back next year,” Ahmed told CBC Sports after the race.

“I think only four guys in this field didn’t break sub-13. That tells you the depth of this event. I’ve got to fix some things, but not a bad result; top-five in the world.”

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen won gold in a time of 13:09.24, followed by Kenya’s Jacop Krop (13:09.98).

Uganda’s Oscar Chelimo was able to grab bronze at the line with a season-best time of 13:10.20.

Ahmed was able to claw his way back into the race after falling back in the pack. By the time the bell sounded signaling the final lap, the Canadian was in a medal position. This time he wasn’t able to fend off the talented field to get on the podium.

He’s known for late kicks to win medals, however.

Three years ago in Doha, Ahmed had dropped back to fifth position in the last 500 metres. However, he surged on the closing stretch and was able to grab bronze.

It marked the first time ever a Canadian had won a long-distance medal at worlds.

Then, nearly a year ago to the day on a hot and humid Tokyo night, Ahmed kicked it into high gear again down the stretch in the 5,000m — this time it was good enough for silver.

That marked another historic moment for Ahmed as he became the first Canadian to win a long-distance medal at the Olympics.

Canada finishes 4th in women’s 4x400m relay

Sydney McLaughlin took the last victorious lap on Sunday, pulling away in the women’s 4x400m relay to close a U.S. runaway and give the Americans their record 33rd medal for the meet. The U.S. won in a world-leading time of 3 minutes, 17.79 seconds.

Jamaica took silver in 3:20.74, finishing ahead of bronze medallists Great Britain (3:22.64).

The Canadian quartet of Natassha McDonald, Aiyanna Stiverne, Zoe Sherar and Kyra Constantine finished fourth with a season-best time of 3:25.18.

McLaughlin turned a .73-second lead into a 2.93-second runaway on the anchor lap, adding this burst of speed to the world record she set two nights earlier in the 400 hurdles.

Two more world records went down Sunday — in the very first and very last action of the last session at Hayward Field.

Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan opened the evening by setting the record for the 100-metre hurdles in the semifinals: 12.12 seconds. She came back about 90 minutes later to win the gold medal. Her winning time was actually faster — 12.06 — but the wind was too strong, so that mark doesn’t go in the books.

WATCH l Amusan wins gold in women’s 100m hurdles:

And after McLaughlin was done with her last lap, pole vaulter Armand Duplantis of Sweden cleared 6.21 metres to best his world record by .01.

He gave Sweden its first gold medal of the meet. That was 12 fewer than the Americans.

WATCH l Duplantis breaks own world record:

The last was especially sweet, as it also marked the 14th and final world gold for 36-year-old Allyson Felix, who came out of retirement to run in the preliminary of the 4×400 and, so, gets a medal. She finishes her career with a record 20 world medals, overall.

The 33 medals was three more than the U.S. collected in 2017.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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