With a mighty thrust of his muscled right arm, Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops has become the first Canadian in history to win a medal in a throwing event at the IAAF world track and field championships.
Armstrong, 30, won a silver medal in the shot put in Daegu, South Korea, on Friday, leading the event until its second-last throw. That's when 21-year-old David Storl of Germany stepped into the throwing circle and took away the gold.
Storl won with a throw of 21.78 metres, slightly better than the 21.64m Armstrong had uncorked in the fourth of six rounds. Storl had thrown a personal best of 21.50m in qualifying on Wednesday.
"There was a lot of pressure this year to try and get my country a medal," Armstrong told reporters on an Athletics Canada conference call. "I think I handled it really well and used it as much as I can to train harder and have that drive coming in here.
"It just shows with a lot of hard work and a lot of support, especially being in the community that I'm from, Kamloops, it's totally awesome. I'm just so happy to bring back my community a medal."
Armstrong, whose mother Judy and sister Linda surprised him by flying into Daegu from Kamloops, was second after the first round and slid to third after two rounds as Storl moved into the lead for the first time. However, Armstrong, the No. 1-ranked shot putter in the world, threw 21.64m in the fourth round to take the lead. It held up until Storl took it away with the second-last throw of the event.
Storl, who is from Rochlitz, was the 2008 world junior champion. He finished 15th at the 2009 IAAF world championships in Berlin, then, in his first full season on the senior circuit, wound up seventh at the 2010 world indoor championships in Doha, Qatar.
"A big congratulations to David Storl," Armstrong told CBC Sports. "He's the future of shot putting for the next 10 years or more."
Armstrong still has the longest throw in the world this year, having set a Canadian record with a heave of 22.21m at the Canadian championships in Calgary in June. But by yesterday's sixth round, the heat and humidity had taken a toll and he just couldn't muster one more mighty throw. In fact, he fouled on his final attempt.
"I was definitely gassed by that point," Armstrong told the conference call. "I would have liked to have thrown a little bit further, but (the humidity) and heat kind of stopped me.
"But it's awesome. I'm on the podium and that's all that matters."
Armstrong now has Canada's lone medal of these championships, which conclude on Sunday.
"It's awesome, it was an amazing night tonight," he said. "I'm very, very pleased to get on the podium. A medal's a medal. It was obviously a very tight competition, but a very great competition. It was a great feeling. I've trained really, really hard for this and I'm definitely happy. It sets me up for next year going into London (and the 2012 Olympic Summer Games)."
As always, Armstrong was quick to credit his coach, the internationally renowned Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, who heads up the National Throws Centre in Kamloops.
"I've gotta just keep doing what I've been doing, listening to my coach," Armstrong said. "Obviously without him, I wouldn't have been on the podium. He's the main force behind everything.
"He's an absolute genius. He's very smart in how he does his periodization and his programming. With his years (of) expertise and study, he's one of a kind. Athletics Canada hired him six and a half years ago and now he put me on the podium. It really shows what he can do."
And now Armstrong will begin looking ahead to London. He came within one centimetre of winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. No Canadian has ever won a throws medal at an Olympic Games.
Having come so close in Beijing and now having reached the podium at the world championships, Armstrong's confidence is high.
"It just gives you that extra boost and that confidence going into next year knowing you can win and get on the podium," he said.
Armstrong, who leads the Diamond League shot put standings, won US$40,000 for his second-place finish in Daegu. Should he win the Diamond League title, he will put another $40,000 in his jeans and take home a trophy said to be worth at least that much.
There is, then, no rest for Armstrong.
He was expecting to hold a training session this morning at 9 o'clock Daegu time, because his season is hardly over.
There are at least four competitions left, including a Diamond League meet in Zurich on Thursday. Armstrong also is scheduled to appear in Berlin on Sept. 11 and Zagreb on Sept. 13, before the Diamond League wraps up in Brussels on Sept. 16.
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