Dylan Armstrong was down to his last shot, and he did not disappoint.
Armstrong, a two-time Olympian and Canadian record-holder, used his sixth and final attempt to win the shot put event at the 30th annual Harry Jerome Track Classic on Monday. The 32-year-old Kamloops, B.C., native threw 20.67 metres while correcting a mistake on an earlier attempt, when he over-stepped the circle.
“I fouled, and [the throw] was, maybe, a little further,” said Armstrong. “So I knew I had to pull it together at the end. There it is.”
He came back to beat American Kurt Roberts, who had taken the lead with a 20.45-metre throw. As a result, Armstrong also bettered this year’s Canadian champion, Tim Nedow of Brockville, Ont., who was third with a 20.15-metre toss. Justin Rohde, an American-born competitor who competes for Canada and trains out of Kamloops, was fourth (19.92.)
Armstrong used the event, one of his favourites because it offered him a chance to compete in his home province, as a warmup for this summer’s world track and field championships in Moscow. He began a busy week with a win a day before he heads to Switzerland for an event and then returns for a competition in Victoria.
“I’m really happy with that result today, because I’ve been riding this wave for a month and a half now,” said Armstrong. “So it’s time to pull back and get some more work done and get ready for Moscow.”
Armstrong is feeling much better physically and mentally than he was around this time last year. He has recovered from an elbow injury, through which he competed, and is feeling more relaxed now that the 2012 London Olympics, where he finished fifth, are over.
“You’re carrying the country on your shoulders, especially when you’re an Olympic medalist hopeful,” said Armstrong, who placed fifth at London.
But after some soul searching, he is looking forward to competing in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Armstrong, in line to receive a 2008 Olympic bronze medal after a Belarusian athlete was disqualified for doping, expects to feel less stress in Rio now that an Olympic medal should be coming his way. The medal will be his once the International Amateur Athletics Federation and International Olympic Committee finish with the necessary formalities.
On the other hand, Angela Whyte, 33, also a two-time Olympian, does not know whether she will attempt to compete at Rio as she takes the rest of her career year by year. But the Edmonton native gave herself some encouragement as she won the women’s 100-metre hurdles with a time of 12.78 seconds. She beat Jessica Zelinka, a London, Ont.
Zelinka, a London, Ont., native who now lives in Connecticut (12.86) has been Canada’s best hurdler in the past year and placed seventh at the London Olympics.
“I’m really happy,” said Whyte. “It’s probably one of my better races here. I love coming here.”
Brianna Thiesen of Humboldt, Sask., was third in a time of 13.18 seconds.
Whyte’s time was not a personal best or even a season best. She ran faster at a recent meet in Calgary, where she posted a time of 12.66 seconds, just three one-hundredths off her personal best. But she was pleased to beat Zelinka.
“Any time you can take a win off her ... She’s just phenomenal, so I’m very with that and honoured to be able to do that, because she’s really starting to come into her form,” said Whyte.
She continued to excel after winning the Canadian title last weekend in Moncton. Zelinka, who has “her rhythm back” provided a difficult test.
“I was just happy to be able to keep it together when I felt that pressure,” said Whyte. “I’m always working on things every single race. So that was what I worked on.”
Whyte will keep her career together for the time being as she balances competing with her masters studies in sports psychology and sports ethics at the University of Idaho, where she also serves as an assistant coach. She hopes lessons learned at events in Canada and Moscow, Idaho, while translate into success at the worlds in Moscow, Russia.
“I’m just focusing on execution,” said Whyte. “I’ve been too focused on results.”
Whyte also attributes her success to the fact that other top Canadians are out of action, with former world champion Perdita Felicien taking the year off, Nikkita Holder pregnant and not competing, and Phylicia George injured.
Still, Whyte does not feel her success is unusual. With Canada having an abundance of world-class hurdlers, she said, her strong performances have not always been noticed.
“I don’t think it’s so much an improvement,” she said of her recent success. “Sometimes, you just need to figure it out. Like, it’s there, it’s in the tank. But, especially with hurdles, you just figure it out. You figure out the rhythm. You figure out the rhythm, you figure out those cues, you figure out how to time everything. You start to sharpen that out.”
Whyte has been training in the pentathlon and could compete in the multi-disciplinary event next year, if she keeps her career going. After failing to qualify for the London Games, she is not yet ready to decide whether to take the road to Rio.
“I’ve been very lucky and honoured to represent Canada,” said Whyte. “It would be great, and I think that’s the ultimate goal, to keep going. But you never know what happens.
Notes: No senior-level Canadian records were broken as athletes competed under hot and humid conditions.