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High jump gold medallist Derek Drouin, of Corunna, Ont., speaks to the media as he arrives in Toronto on Aug. 24, 2016. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
High jump gold medallist Derek Drouin, of Corunna, Ont., speaks to the media as he arrives in Toronto on Aug. 24, 2016. (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Derek Drouin says ‘contagious’ mentality put Canada on podium Add to ...

The groundwork for Derek Drouin’s Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games was laid in 2013.

The year after a disappointing London Olympics – when his bronze in high jumping was Canada’s only medal in track and field – Drouin says he and his athletics teammates flipped a mental switch and started to believe in themselves. Canada won five medals at the world track championships in Moscow in 2013 and in his mind it was all thanks to that new psychological approach.

“It’s been a shift in our mentality,” said Drouin on Friday before answering questions from fans in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. “We’re no longer just excited to be there. We want to be on the podium. It’s a mentality that’s contagious.

“Our young athletes are hungry and truly believe that as Canadians that was something they were capable of.”

Drouin won gold at the Rio Olympics with a 2.38-metre jump, just short of the Canadian record of 2.40 which he established in April 2014. His gold was one of six medals Canada’s track and field team won in Rio, its best finish in a non-boycotted Olympics since 1932, when Canadians captured nine medals.

It’s a big improvement from Drouin’s lone medal in 2012, the team’s two medals in 2008 in Beijing and none between the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Games.

Drouin, who says it still hasn’t sunk in that he’s the Olympic champion, thinks Canada will build on its success in Rio and do even better at the Tokyo Games in 2020.

“We’ve got a couple of world championships between then and now that will obviously be the goal first off,” said Drouin, who also won gold at the 2015 world championships. “As track athletes we work toward quadrennials and everything’s gearing up for four years from now.”

Atheltics Canada’s sharp improvement at the Olympics will see an increase in funding from organizations like Own the Podium, which rewards Olympians and their coaches for winning medals. That will only add fuel to Canada’s fire as the track and field team prepares for Tokyo.

“That was certainly a worry for us a few years ago, that we’d lose funding. Now I don’t think we’re going to be in the same position,” Drouin said. “It makes a huge difference.

“Not having to worry about where you’ll be training, if you’re going to be able to get to a warm-weather training camp, because it’s basically impossible to train inside all year round for a lot of the events, just things like that it makes such a big difference.”

Drouin, from Corunna, Ont., returned to Canada on Aug. 24 on a flight with fellow Olympians including sprinter Andre de Grasse of Markham, Ont., and hurdler Nikkita Holder of Pickering, Ont. Since coming home Drouin’s been kept busy with media appearances and meeting with fans. On Friday afternoon he did a brief public interview on an outdoor stage in front of dozens of fans before taking questions directly from the audience.

After that, he stood and posed for individual photos with fans, letting them hold his gold medal as a high jump, set to 2.38 metres, loomed in the background.

“Right now it’s the off-season so I’m not really thinking about track for at least a couple of weeks,” said Drouin, who plans to tour Europe with a friend. “Then we’ll shift everything toward Tokyo 2020.”

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