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World No. 1 shot-putter's Olympic journey to pass through Vancouver

Dylan Armstrong of Canada competes during the shot put event at the Golden Spike International track and field meeting in Ostrava May 25, 2012.

Petr Josek/Reuters/Petr Josek/Reuters

Dylan Armstrong is doing his best to put 20 days of unwanted rest behind him — and he's not having much trouble.

Armstrong, the world's No. 1-ranked shot-putter and one of Canada's best 2012 Olympic medal hopes, took an unscheduled break in Arizona this spring due to an elbow injury. The 31-year-old Kamloops, B.C., native had never gone without throwing for such a long period.

"It killed me — but it did me some good," Armstrong said Tuesday following a news conference to promote the 29th Harry Jerome Track Classic on June 10 in Burnaby, B.C., where he will compete against some of the world's best.

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"It gave me a break mentally. I've just got to step back and rebuild again."

So far, so good.

Armstrong posted three straight wins in five days at European meets recently while increasing his distance each time.

He threw 20.93 and 21.29 metres at a pair of meets in the Czech Republic before capping his run with a 21.44-metre effort at an event in the Netherlands. Along the way he reclaimed his top world ranking by defeating 2008 Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland and 2011 world champion David Storl of Germany.

He will fit the Jerome Classic in among many others on his road to London. You could say he is making up for lost time following his injury, which did not require surgery.

Between now and the Jerome Classic he will go to a meet in Eugene, Ore., back home to Kamloops to train and over to Oslo, Norway for a Diamond League meet. In addition to his earlier visits to Arizona and Europe, he ventured to Kansas City, the Cayman Islands, Korea and China.

But Armstrong, who describes himself as back in form, thrives on competing frequently — and drawing more from himself when he's tired.

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"Yeah, the travel's hard and things, but it just gets you in that form of being tired and finding your rhythm when you're tired," he said. "So that helps. It definitely helps. It helps me."

Armstrong has competed in seven events since his indoor campaign was derailed by the injury. His chief rivals, — Americans Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and Adam Nelson, plus Poland's Majewski — have competed in no more than four.

"For me, it works," Armstrong said of his schedule. "I like to just build. I like to throw when I'm tired. When I'm training hard. See how far I can throw when I'm tired and really push the limits. It's just who I am.

"(The Jerome Classic) is just a way of seeing where I am (after) what I've gone through."

He hopes to help himself by becoming more consistent. His throws this season have ranged from 20.72 metres to 21.44.

According to Doug Clement, a Jerome meet organizer and longtime Canadian track and field coach and administrator, eight shot-putters are capable of throwing 21 metres on any given day.

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Armstrong believes 22 metres will be the magic mark that leads to Olympic hardware.

"I have to throw 22 metres," he said. "I don't want to throw 21-low. I want to throw 22-high."

If he does, Armstrong will complete a significant comeback from his injury. In his first outdoor meet of the season in Kansas, he faulted on all six of his attempts.

He can also make up for disappointment four years ago at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when he missed a medal by a fraction of a metre and had to settle for fourth.

But he is not letting the disappointment get to him.

"I'm way past Beijing," he said.

Technically, physically and speed-wise, he considers himself much better than he was four years ago. The 2011 world championship silver medallist credits most of his success to his coach Anatoli Bondarchuk, an Olympic hammer throw gold medallist from Ukraine who moved to Kamloops to coach a local track club seven years ago.

While Armstrong shrugs off his previous Olympic performance, he realizes the importance of his next one.

"This is it," said Armstrong. "This is the year. These are my peak years, so I have to go out there and try to strike the gold."

At the Jerome, many other athletes will try to meet Olympic standards. As a result, more top athletes are expected to attend than in recent years.

Notable Canadian participants include former world 100-metre hurdles world champion Perdita Felicien of Pickering, Ont. and rival Angela Whyte of Edmonton, along with javelin specialist Liz Gleadle of Vancouver and 100-metre sprinter Sam Effah of Calgary.

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