Canadian sprinter Justyn Warner using 2012 Olympic disappointment as motivation for Rio

Canadian sprinter Justyn Warner is comforted by Nikita Holder after learning of the...

Canadian sprinter Justyn Warner is comforted by Nikita Holder after learning of the disqualification at the London Olympics in 2012. (Al Charest, QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:09 AM ET

Justyn Warner will probably never get over the heartbreak.

And many Canadians will never forget the image of a devastated four-by-100-metre men’s relay team at last summer’s London Olympics.

But life goes on, and due to the disappointment of having a bronze medal taken away on a technicality, so will Warner’s track and field career.

“I played football before I went to track and I had said that if I get a medal in London, that I would consider going back to playing football, it’s one of my passions,” said Warner, in town to compete at the Edmonton International Track Classic at Foote Field Saturday. “But now with what happened, I now feel that I have to go back and try to get that medal that we deserve.

“I have to get the job done. It definitely gives me a lot of motivation to go back and do it all over again. It’s a long journey but I think in the end, it’ll be worth it.”

Warner, along with Gavin Smellie, Seyi Smith and Jared Connaughton were celebrating their third-place finish last summer, crossing the line behind Jamaica — led by Usain Bolt — and the United States.

However, moments later, they were disqualified as it was ruled Connaughton had stepped on the line of an adjacent lane during his leg of the race.


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“It will always eat at me, always,” said Warner, who broke down on the track that day, garnering the sympathy of Canadians. “But it’s one of those things that will make me stronger every year. I just have to continue to stay focused on my goals. It was a hard couple of months, just to regroup, I just had to focus and be positive. I just had to be positive about everything I did.

“But it makes me a stronger athlete, and we’re determined to go back to the Olympics in Rio and do it again, get the medal that we deserve.”

Considering the harshness of the ruling, the country was quick to throw their support behind the relay team.

The outpouring of support was overwhelming upon their return to Canada.

“It was unbelievable,” Warner said. “The four of us, every time we were together, we did a bunch of events, everyone would come up to us and tell us that they cried with us and it was heartbreaking.

“It’s one of those things that gives me goosebumps when I think about it. People joke that we almost became more famous for losing the medal than we would have if we got the medal.”

One of the most touching moments was when 10-year-old Elijah Porter from Newfoundland wrote a letter to the team and offered them his Tim Horton’s Timbits soccer medal as a consolation.

“He sent us his only medal that he had ever received,” said Warner. “We tried to go up and visit him, but there was a hurricane so only two of us could get out there.

“But just the amount of things like that we got were unbelievable. It’s something that the four of us will always cherish. We’re like a family that anytime we see each other we have that bond that will never be broken.”

Moving forward, Warner knows it’s a long way back to the Olympic four-by-100 final and if Canada is going to medal, everyone has to get faster.

In order to do that, Warner’s focus is on breaking the 10-second barrier, which he has yet to do in competition. The defending national champion has a career-best time of 10.09.

“It’s so crazy when you think about how much room it is from 10.09 to 9.99, it’s literally a small step,” Warner said. “It’s so minute that every little step in my race has to be perfect. And I’ve done it before in practice.

"I know that I can do it in competition. I will do it, and I just have to have patience with it. I can’t force anything. It’s all a learning process for me and my major goal for real is to get up on the podium for that 100m in Rio.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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