Whitby’s LePage, Edmonton’s Arop strike gold for Canada on historic date in track

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Published August 26, 2023 at 9:41 pm

World Decathalon champion Pierce LePage of Whitby

Pierce LePage has stamped himself as the top decathlete in the world. And it came on a historic day for Canada.

The Whitby native became the first Canadian to win men’s decathlon gold at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday. Edmonton’s Marco Arop also became the first-ever Canadian to strike world gold in the men’s 800 metres.

LePage’s 8,909 points set a world-leading and personal-best mark, in addition to being the sixth-best ever, en route to upgrading on his silver from last year’s worlds. His previous personal best was 8,701 in that silver-medal effort.

The 27 year-old took the lead from second in the 110 hurdles — the first of five events on Saturday — and never looked back.

“Last time, I said let me cook and I cooked for you all today,” LePage told reporters in Budapest’s National Athletics Centre. “Everything went really well.

“I just think the biggest thing for me, I said it last year, I said it this year, is staying healthy. My knees are finally working, I can jump a little bit again, so I’m excited to get even healthier and get better next year,” LePage added in reference to past injuries, including a torn patella he competed through at the Tokyo Olympics, where he finished fifth in 2021.

Olympic champion Damian Warner of London claimed silver with a season-best 8,804 points, while Grenada’s Lindon Victor grabbed bronze with 8,756.

“I’ve been competing with Damian for a long time … to share the podium with him is so special, especially for my first world championship gold,” LePage said. “He leads by example, so you know, Olympic champion and world champion.”

Warner was denied of his first world outdoor gold to add to an already decorated resume, having won indoor gold in 2022. The 33 year-old was in the top three the whole way and moved from third to second with the 1,500 — the last of 10 events in the two-day event.

“I think each of us decathletes know how hard it is to finish this competition, so that whenever you finish the competition, and guys are left standing, you just kind of share that moment together,” Warner said.

“You wrap your arms around your competitors and say, ‘Congratulations and see you next time.'”

LePage and Warner won the last of four medals for Canada on Saturday, bringing the country’s total up to six so far at this year’s worlds. Sarah Mitton also took silver in the women’s shot put shortly before.

Marco Arop

Arop — who finished seventh at the 2019 worlds and missed the Olympic final altogether in 2021 — was just the second Canadian to medal in the men’s 800 at last year’s worlds when he earned bronze. Gary Reed won silver in 2007 in Osaka, Japan.

“It’s incredible,” Arop said post-race when asked of the feeling of winning gold. “It hasn’t dawned on me yet how amazing this is.

“I’m probably gonna wake up and it’ll hit me in the morning. But right now, just trying to take it all in, it’s amazing.”

Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi (one minute 44.53 seconds) and Great Britain’s Ben Pattison (1:44.83) grabbed silver and bronze, respectively.

The 24 year-old Arop looked at ease sitting in last place for the first of two laps before effortlessly charging ahead of the pack in the final lap and cruising to victory in 1:44.24.

“I’ve been able to do this before but to have the confidence to do it at a world final, I think that just shows how much I’ve learned from the past,” Arop said. “I’m just glad that worked.”

Mitton of Brooklyn, N.S., had a top throw of 20.08 metres — a season best — on her fifth of six attempts in the shot put.

“Amazing,” Mitton told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from Budapest with a joy-filled laugh when asked how she is.

“It feels really good,” she added. “It was a bit challenging throughout the meets, so it kind of makes it a little bit sweeter that I had to work for it.

“It didn’t come easy so I’m really happy to be able to have a season’s best here on the worlds stage.”

Mitton was tied for bronze with the Netherlands’ Jessica Schilder at the 2022 worlds but lost her spot on the podium on a tiebreaker, with Schilder having had the next furthest throw.

Sarah Mitton

“It was sweet to upgrade from fourth place,” Mitton said. “It was bittersweet last year.

“It was definitely a success for me to come fourth but being that close to bronze was just really challenging,” said the 27 year-old, who will now look to next year’s Olympic Games in Paris. “Really happy to have medalled and now I have something to work for next year.”

American Chase Ealey repeated as world champion with a season-best 20.43, while China’s Lijiao Gong (19.69) earned bronze.

In other results, Natasha Wodak of Surrey, B.C., was the top Canadian in the women’s marathon, finishing 15th with a season-best time of 2:30:09. Toronto’s Sarah Gollish placed 61st with a season-best 2:45:09.

 

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