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Canada’s Pierce LePage leads the decathlon at worlds after 8 events

LePage moved up from 5th place Sunday
Pierce Lepage, of Canada, competes in the decathlon pole vault at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, David J. Phillip

A Canadian is in the hunt for a world decathlon title — but it’s not Olympic champion Damian Warner.

Pierce LePage, a 26-year-old from Whitby, Ont., was the leader after eight of 10 events on Sunday, moving up from fifth place into the lead with personal bests in the 400 metres, 110-metre hurdles and discus.

The javelin and the 1,500, both scheduled for Sunday evening, are the final two events.

Warner had led the field through the first four events of Day 1, but his quest for a first world decathlon title ended with a hamstring injury in the 400 metres.

LePage has flirted with the podium numerous times, finishing fifth at both the Tokyo Olympics and 2019 world championships in Doha.

Earlier Sunday, Olympic bronze medallist Evan Dunfee was sixth in the 35-kilometre race walk. And while Dunfee said he loves climbing medal podiums, after battling both a hamstring injury and mental health issues this season, the 31-year-old from Richmond, B.C., was pleased with race.

“To come away with sixth after the year it’s been … it’s been a struggle for me this year, it’s been physically and emotionally and mentally a little bit tough,” Dunfee said. “So to get sixth, I’m thrilled with this, and to have my family and friends out here on the sidelines cheering me on, that was awesome.”

Dunfee, who sat around 12th place for much of the race before moving up through the final few kilometres, crossed in two hours 25 minutes two seconds.

Italy’s Massimo Stano took the gold in 2:23.14. Japan’s Masatora Kawano was second in 2:23.15, while Sweden’s Perseus Kalstrom won the bronze (2:23.44).

Dunfee captured bronze both at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics and the 2019 world championships in Doha.

“I got used to the podium,” Dunfee said with a laugh. “It’s always disappointing to not be on there. Not disappointing, disappointing’s the wrong word. But, it’s something that, as much as I told myself — and I am really proud of this race — but you’re still like, ah, that podium’s fun to stand on.

“But no, I think today was a really good race.”

Dunfee’s two global medals came at 50 kilometres, a distance that has been eliminated from the international program, despite tireless lobbying from Dunfee and others.

“The athlete voice, it can only go so far, I guess,” Dunfee said. “I’ll forever defend the value of the 50k.

“But yeah, for where my body’s been at or how much of a struggle this year has been, I can’t be unhappy with that performance … if you told me yesterday I’d come sixth, I’d probably been pretty happy with that, so I’ll take it.”

The Canadian Press

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