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Olympic decathlon champ Warner gets loose with other sports after post-Games break

Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner will be casting a wide sporting net as he starts preparations for a busy 2022 season. The sprint shoes and shot put stones aren't needed just yet.

Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner will be casting a wide sporting net as he starts preparations for a busy 2022 season.  

The sprint shoes and shot put stones aren't needed just yet. Instead, Warner planned to shoot hoops with his coach and play some badminton Friday as he slowly eases his body back into a regular routine. 

After a two-month break from training, Warner will keep things light over the next few weeks.

"Nothing is out of touch," Warner said. "Anything that we think is going to be interesting or fun, we'll try it."

He also plans to toss the baseball and football around, while working in sports as varied as table tennis, rock climbing and volleyball.

"We don't necessarily believe that the most athletic person runs in a straight line," Warner said. "So we try to move on different planes."

The 31-year-old from London, Ont., has kept busy since winning gold at the Tokyo Games. He and longtime partner Jen Cotten, a former national team hurdler, stay on their toes with son Theo, who's seven months old. 

Warner has also made recent appearances at pro sports events, was named a Canada's Walk of Fame inductee and has been tending to sponsor commitments and community initiatives. 

When decathlon training resumes, he'll have his eye on major 2022 competitions like the March 18-20 world indoors in Belgrade, the May 28-29 Hypo Meeting in Gotzis, Austria and the July 15-24 world athletics championships in Eugene, Ore. 

"Those are the big ones that are in the schedule," Warner said. "Obviously there will be some other events here and there, individual events, but we're not necessarily sure of those dates yet."

A bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, Warner also finished third at the 2019 world championship in Doha, Qatar. 

He set a Canadian record at Gotzis last May and improved that national mark by setting an Olympic record in Tokyo with 9,018 points.

"I don't necessarily chase a number score," Warner said from London. "But at the same time, I'm human and you can't help but look at scores and try to see if there's an opportunity to score 9,000 points. But I think having that in my bag now, I can really focus on just going into the competitions and just trying to win.

"I don't really have to focus too much on what the score is going to be. It takes off some pressure in that sense where now I can just focus on exactly what I want, which is winning competitions. The world championships will certainly be a big one."

Warner had to train in a chilly, run-down hockey arena last winter because his usual indoor training facility at Western University wasn't available due to the pandemic. The school venue has since reopened, but Warner won't firm up plans until he shifts to decathlon training. 

"I think it was a great story but it was difficult," Warner said. "We were able to persevere through it but it's not necessarily the most ideal training situation. It will be really nice to be back to normalcy."

Now that he's had time to reflect on his unusual path to Olympic gold, Warner said he's really proud of how he and his team handled training challenges, travel limitations and the adjusted competition schedule. 

"I think it sets me up well moving forward, not only for the decathlon but for other things in my future," he said. "If you're given cards that aren't necessarily the best, you know how to deal with them and manoeuvre and make the most of it. 

"I think it'll definitely help me out in the long run."

In Tokyo, Warner became the fourth man in history to top the elusive 9,000-point barrier. A world title and besting Kevin Mayer's world record of 9,126 points are two of his main goals for the future, along with trying to defend his Olympic crown in 2024 in Paris.

"The next three years are different than most because usually we'd have an off-year," Warner said in an interview as part of his promotion of Kraft Heinz Pantry Day. "But for this (shortened quadrennial), there's going to be two world indoors, two world outdoors, two times at Gotzis and an Olympic Games. 

"So there's a lot from a year-to-year basis, but Paris is definitely the end goal."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021. 

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press