September 20, 2020

Canadian Dylan Armstrong likes to stay on the move since leaving Cayman Islands


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At six-foot-four and a well-distributed 345 pounds, it’s hard to say Dylan Armstrong travels light.

But really, beyond his considerable bulk, he has learned not to weigh himself down with unnecssary baggage. Which is a good thing, because the Kamloops-born shot-putter goes more places than Fodor travel writers.

Three weeks ago he started off in Arizona and then competed in the Cayman Islands. From there he moved onto Daegu, South Korea, to Shanghai to Turnov and Ostrava in the Czech Republic and to Hengelo, the Netherlands.

After training at Richmond’s Minoru Park this week, he’ll head down to Eugene, Ore., for Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic, part of the Samsung Diamond League series, then go back home to Kamloops for a couple of days before flying to Oslo, Norway, for a Diamond League meet there next Thursday. Then it’s a quick turnaround back to Vancouver for the June 10 Vancouver Sun Harry Jerome Track Classic.

With apologies to the late James Brown, the high-energy Godfather of Soul, Armstrong is the hardest working man in throw business.

“For me it works,” says the 31-year-old Armstrong, the 2011 world championships silver medalist and a man who will go to the London Olympics as Canada’s best medal threat in track and field.

“I like to build and I like to throw when I’m tired and training hard and see how far I can throw when I’m tired,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “Really push the limits. It’s just who I am. I like the rush of it.

“Yeah, the travel is hard and things, but it just gets you in that form. You’re competing, you’re tired, but you’re finding your rhythm when you’re tired. That helps. It definitely helps me.”

By comparison, his chief rivals, Americans Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and Adam Nelson, plus Poland’s Tomasz Majewski, have competed just four, two, three and three times, respectively, this season.

Armstrong, a gentle, but gregarious giant, has always loved to throw, be it competition or training. He is incredibly driven and a self-motivator, which is why when he had to take a 20-day break from throwing in March to rest an ailing elbow after the world indoor championships, he went stir crazy.

“It killed me,” he says.

He survived. The rug in his rented home in Arizona? We’re not so sure.

“Walked around in circles. It was horrible . . . brutal, for sure.”

He began his outdoor season April 18 at the Kansas Relays where he fouled on all six of his throws.

In the six competitions since, however, he’s shown the kind of consistency he strives for, throwing between 20.72 metres and 21.44 metres and winning four times. That 21.44 in Hengelo on Saturday was the sixth-best throw in the world this year. Hoffa leads with a throw of 21.73 metres.

“I’ve definitely got more in the tank,” says Armstrong.

He’ll probably need it.

The thinking is it will take a throw of 22-plus metres to win gold in London. Armstrong’s personal best is 22.21, which he threw at last June’s nationals in Calgary.

“I would say if I threw 22 metres [in London], I’ll . . . we’ll see what happens. But I have to throw 22 metres.”

Armstrong’s story is a inspiring tale of an untapped talent meeting up with the perfect coach at the right time. It was seven years ago when the then-65-year-old Anatoli Bondarchuk, an Olympic hammer throw gold medalist from the Ukraine, relocated to the B.C. Interior. He was looking to get closer to his daughter, who had moved to Edmonton, when he answered an online ad from the Kamloops Track Club looking for a throws coach.

Bondarchuk, whom Armstrong calls Dr. B, knew almost no English at the time, so he and Armstrong used hand signals for the first few months.

“He saved my career,” says Armstrong. “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He’s everything behind what I do.”

Four years ago in Beijing, Armstrong, who had flown under the radar in Canada in the leadup to those Olympics, finished fourth, just the length of a fingernail from earning a bronze medal. By mid-2011, he was the world’s No.1-ranked thrower, having won the prestigious Diamond League title.

He believes he is at his athletic peak right now.

“This is it, this is the year,” he says of going for gold in London. “I have to go in there with the mentality thinking that I can win. You have to have the confidence. You have to go after it.”
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