EDMONTON - Shot putter Dylan Armstrong was happy with a so-so throw, world champion hurdler Jason Richardson was thrilled with a decent time, and the organizers of the Donovan Bailey Invitational were flat-out ecstatic about successfully staging one of the best track meets ever held in Canada.
“I’m really surprised to throw that far,” said Armstrong, who won the shot put with a throw of 21.02 metres, despite being in the midst of intense training for the Summer Olympics in London next month. “That’s just really good for me.
“I’ve been training really hard through this, I’m a little big sluggish through this, so it’s a good sign. I’m sore, my muscles are sore. I get back home tonight and I’ve got two weeks to go.”
Home for the 31-year-old Armstrong is Kamloops, B.C., where training under legendary coach Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk, he fashioned himself into an elite thrower, finishing second at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, as well as winning the Diamond League in his event.
On a sultry Saturday at the University of Alberta’s Foote Field, Armstrong won the day over Ryan Whiting of the United States (20.71), fellow Canadian and training partner Justin Rohde (20.42) and American Christian Cantwell (20.36), who won the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Armstrong will return to Kamloops for another training block before heading to Calgary for the Canadian Olympic trials June 27-30.
“I’m extremely happy with that performance,” Armstrong said. “Anything over 21 metres at this stage of the game is really good. I’ve got some really hard training ahead of me.”
Armstrong was one of the few athletes who actually competed last year at the inaugural Donovan Bailey Invitational, which was washed out by a freak electrical storm.
But word of mouth has obviously begun to make its way around the track world, since the likes of Richardson and Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, the reigning world champion in the 100 metres showed up in Edmonton this year, as well.
Richardson won the high hurdles in a solid time of 13.16 seconds, beating fellow Americans Ryan Wilson (13.20) and Dexter Faulk (13.12).
The ebullient Richardson, like Armstrong, raved about the meet, well-timed this year because it comes not long before the Canadian, Jamaican and U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
“It makes me feel good to know I can consistently and relatively easily go 13.10,” Richardson said. “It’s definitely a time that will make the team.
“I can’t imagine not being able to do that, although crazier things have happened at the U.S. trials. But, overall, I’m blessed to come out healthy and feeling really poised for a good attempt at the Olympic berth.
“In terms of quality, this is one of the finest fields assembled. I really tip my hat to the Donovan Bailey Invitational. We have so many quality hurdlers in this era and for them to get so many is an amazing feat. I really had to elevate my game to be successful.”
Blake, a training partner of world and Olympic record holder Usain Bolt, didn’t necessarily elevate his game, running 10.05 seconds. He ran 9.90 within the last two weeks in New York City.
Like Armstrong and Richardson, though, Blake had no complaint with a solid performance against a quality international field that included American Trell Kimmons (second in 10.11) and fellow Jamaican Lerone Clarke (third in 10.13).
“I think everybody is happy because not everyone gets a chance to see me in person,” Blake said. “I’m glad I came to Canada, it was a different experience for me.
“Also, it will help me get ready for the Olympics because London will be cold, also.”
Cold is a relative term, clearly. The high on a sunny, slightly breezy Saturday was 21 C at Foote Field. It felt hotter than that when the sun was unimpeded by cloud cover.
Armstrong, for one, was perspiring heavily after his winning performance, but that probably had a lot to do with six rounds of putting that 16-pound shot.
Oh, and Jamaican sprinter Sherri-Ann Brooks won both the women’s 100 and 200 metres, winning the 100 in 11.05 and the 200 in 22.92
The Edmonton meet ran like clockwork, as the best track meets do, which had meet organizer Peter Ogilvie, the executive-director of Athletics Alberta, beaming when it ended shortly after 4:30 p.m.
“We couldn’t ask for anything more,” Ogilvie said. “To have two world champions (Blake and Richardson), two Diamond League winners (Lopes-Schliep and Armstrong) compete here in the city, we were hoping for strong event and I think we pulled that off, a little bit of redemption from last year.”
The Edmonton public didn’t quite catch up to what was on offer. Ogilvie was hoping for more than 5,000 fans, but a generous estimate would peg Saturday’s crowd at 3,000.
“We were hoping for a little bit more,” Ogilvie said. “But, at the end of the day, we know that we still have to prove ourselves. I think we’re building and things will only get better. People will want to come out to see this event in the future.
“And we will be pressing for bigger and better things next year — guaranteed.”
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