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Damian Warner apologized for calling four minutes later than he had promised.

His courteous tone on the phone was reminiscent of the Canadian decathlete’s demeanour at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. He won gold in the gruelling 10-event competition contested over two days in blistering hot August temperatures, yet was engaged and unhurried afterward with media, and again days later when Team Canada announced him as flag-bearer for the closing ceremony of those pandemic-delayed Games.

Warner spoke with The Globe and Mail while prepping for the annual Hypo-Meeting – this Saturday and Sunday in Goetzis, Austria – where he has won a record seven titles. It feels like an unofficial start to his 2024 Paris Olympics preparations.

“It’s hard to believe that we are nearly one year out from another Olympics,” said the 33-year-old London, Ont., native. “Going from Tokyo, where there were no fans, to Paris, where I imagine it’s going to be packed, that will be a big change, and I’m excited.”

When and where were you happiest?

In 2012 at the Olympics. That was my first Olympics, so I achieved the big goal plus it was the first time that my mom got to see me do a decathlon, and the first time in eight years that I saw my dad. That will always be my favourite experience because the personal stuff and the competition stuff all came together.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Winning the gold medal in Tokyo [in 2021]. That’s something that I’d been chasing and dreaming about for a long time.

What is your greatest fear?

I think my greatest fear is death, honestly. I love my life, and I love the people in my life and I get scared of leaving the earth too early. Recently, we had some people in our circle who left the world too early and it hurt a lot of people. Health is the most important thing.

Who is a man that you admire?

I’ll say two men – Gar Leyshon and Dennis Nielsen – my coaches. They’ve been with me a long time. They were my high-school English teachers and my basketball coaches. At an early age, when I didn’t have any direction, they saw something in me. They went out of their way giving me time, energy and financial support, so I didn’t fall through the cracks.

Who is a woman you admire?

My mom, because she’s sacrificed a lot to allow me, my brother and my sister to live the lives that we live.

I realize you excel at 10 events in your sport, but is there another skill you wish you had?

I would love to be a good golfer. I watch golf videos all the time and play every so often with my coaches and family and I’m looking to get lessons. I enjoy the skill plus the mental side of picking your shots.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I had some kind of musical talent.

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably the gold medal. I do public school speaking and I pass around the medal and I see the looks on kids’ faces. It allows me to tell my story in the way that I want to tell it and show people that you can do anything you set your mind to, and that medal is kind of evidence.

What’s a trait you most dislike in others?

I’ve always tried to treat people with respect, so I think that when people’s first inclination is to disrespect others, that rubs me the wrong way.

What is a trait you dislike in yourself?

I can be impatient sometimes. I’ve learned to trust the people I have around me that things that I’m working for will come, and I just need to stay patient and stay the course, but sometimes I want things to happen right away.

What’s a book that has resonated with you?

Outliers: The Story of Success [by Malcolm Gladwell]. I think my coach gave it to me. It was important to me because I was a long jumper before I was a decathlete. I got a couple of injuries and things didn’t go the way that I was hoping, and I started to think maybe it’s just not made for me, you know; maybe success is only reserved for a certain number of people. And I think that when I read the book, I think his biggest takeaway was that success isn’t about an innate ability, it’s about working hard. He talked about 10,000 hours and the idea that you can work yourself to success, and it’s not just reserved for a certain group of people.

What’s your greatest regret?

At one point, my greatest regret was leaving the long jump, because that was a goal I once had – to go to the Olympics as a long jumper. When I quit to do the decathlon, I felt like I just quit on my goal. But in doing the decathlon and going to the Olympics and seeing that my long jump result could have put me on the podium in the individual long jump, it gave me confidence that I made the right decision, but if I had stuck with the long jump, then maybe I would have made it as a long jumper. It all worked out in the end.

What is an invitation you would love to receive?

Maybe once I level up a little in golf, it would be nice to be invited to a pro am tournament to play with some pro players and other athletes.

I have a feeling you just spoke that invitation into existence.

Who would be your dream lunch companion in the athletes’ cafeteria at the Paris Olympics?

I’ve always enjoyed basketball, so LeBron James would be cool. I appreciate athletes who compete at a high level on a consistent basis, and I always love to pick people’s brains about how they’ve done it. Also, golf is similar to decathlon in that you have multiple shots and multiple days that you have to do your sport, so I would love to talk to golfers about how they get over bad shots, or how do they maintain their level when things are going well.

What’s the best gift you have ever given?

I don’t know if I’m a good gift-giver. I feel like people have given me so much throughout my life, so when I think about trying to repay them it’s overwhelming. My coaches and Jen, all these people have given me so much. I just I don’t think that what I give is enough sometimes.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

Before I go to every major competition, Jen, my partner, always slips something into my bag, like a notebook. The first was in 2012 when she had my family and friends write notes in this book and she put it into my bag and told me not to open it until the competition started. So in between the events, I read their messages and it distracted me and helped me in my first Olympics when I was feeling a lot of stress. So she did it again for Tokyo and that book had pictures of Theo my [then-baby] son looking like he was doing all the events – like you can pull this tab and move his arm to make it look like he’s throwing a shot put. I didn’t open it until the competition started so it gave me like a good laugh. It was nice to pass the time in that stadium with no fans in it. Jen and Theo will [be in Goetzis]. It will be their first time in Austria. It’s going to be fun.

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