GUADALAJARA, Mexico. With a little more time, it might have been perfect. The last of the plastic wrap might have been removed from all of the newly installed seats, the last of the construction materials might have been swept from sight, and toilet seats might have been fastened to every toilet inside Telmex Athletics Stadium, instead of just most.
Instead of merely stunning, it might have been flawless.
The benefit of time was evident on the stadium’s verdant infield on Tuesday, where a Canadian athlete made another step toward greatness. Dylan Armstrong, a 30-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., who missed an Olympic medal in shot put by a lonely centimetre three years ago in Beijing, shattered a record at the Pan American Games.
His fifth throw of the day travelled 21.30 metres to break a Games record (20.95) set eight years ago by American Reese Hoffa. And it was well beyond the best from Cuba’s Carlos Veliz (20.76), who finished second.
Armstrong received his medal as the sun began to dip beneath the stands in Guadalajara, clutching in his mammoth grasp another souvenir from what was already the finest year any Canadian in his sport has enjoyed. He has collected them so quickly, he said he has not even had time to manufacture a display case.
For now, they are all in storage.
I’ve got to get that part of my life organized a bit, he said, sheepishly.
It was the time in between that summer in China and this summer of gold that has helped make Armstrong one of Canada’s brightest medal hopes heading into the Summer Olympic Games in London next year. His shoulders were already broad and strong, but he still needed to strengthen the mental approach required to compete under the lights.
I just needed the time, he said. I’m a lot more confident now, obviously, that I’ve got some bigger throws under my belt and a world championships medal. So that’s obviously a little bit different going into London.
So is his profile.
Armstrong became the first Canadian male to win a throwing medal when he won silver at the world championships last month in South Korea. He clinched the Diamond League title, an award for a season’s worth of work on the elite stage, and collected a four-carat diamond trophy and US$40,000 in cash as his reward.
He did not have to compete in Mexico. Many of Canada’s marquee athletes opted to pass on Guadalajara, either because the Games served no purpose in their quest for the Olympics, or because their summer season had already ended.
œIt’s not really a timing thing for me, said Armstrong, who defended the Pan Am title he won four years ago. œObviously, people train different, but like I told the guys up there, I’m training anyway. So there’s really no difference ” I’m going to be throwing at home, I’m going to be throwing here. It’s just another opportunity to get a medal and get one for my country.
Jacques Cardyn, Canada’s chef de mission, saw it differently.
The Games are not as glamorous as their Olympic cousin. Some 6,000 athletes will have competed in Guadalajara before the end of the weekend, but in much smaller venues than they might at the Olympics and, in the case of athletics, in a venue that could use another week or two of renovation work.
It was not until the week of the Opening Ceremony that the International Association of Athletics Federations finally issued its approval of the Telmex Athletics Stadium. There were stories of workers scrambling to sweep garbage and debris from workrooms a week before the opening.
œShowing up at the Pan Am Games just after the world championships, I think he’s the kind of guy who can take the pressure, Cardyn said of Armstrong. œHe will show to everyone what Canada can do.
In nine months, when the London Games open, Armstrong will try to do just that. In the meantime, he will spend the winter training in Arizona. And he was not planning to waste much time, with a scheduled flight out of Mexico on Wednesday morning and only because he could not find one to leave after his medal ceremony Tuesday night.
œI don’t see myself really in the spotlight, he said. œI’m sure other people do, but I just kind of keep my head down and just keep pushing. I don’t get caught up in who’s in what spotlight, you know what I mean? I just do my thing.
But the years have helped to reshape how he does his œthing, and he has learned to not only cope with the pressure of becoming one of the country’s highest-profile summer athletes, but to thrive on it.
œIt’s a rush for me, he said. I kind of use it as a feeder just to train harder. I handle it pretty well, and obviously, that’s through experience.
Source: Sean Fitz Gerald