SPORTS

Canadian shot putter Dylan Armstrong officially crowned Diamond League champ

09/16/2011 02:13 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST
Canada's Dylan Armstrong was paraded around the infield of King Baudouin stadium in a luxury car under a sky filled with fireworks.

The 30-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., was feted on one of track and field's biggest stages Friday, claiming the prestigious Samsung Diamond League title for the shot put at the Van Damme Memorial.

The Canadian will need to get accustomed to the spotlight after serving notice he'll be the man to beat next year in London.

"The stadium was amazing, 50,000 people there tonight. It was awesome," Armstrong said as he was being whisked back to his hotel. "Just a big celebration, we waved to the crowd and 50,000 people chanted. It was great, it was a good way to finish the Diamond League."

It was also a fitting ending to a breakthrough season for Armstrong, who boasts the top throw in the world this year of 22.21 metres and captured a silver medal at the world championships last month, becoming the first Canadian to reach the world podium in a throwing event.

He finished fourth in Friday's meet with a throw of 21.47 metres, but the result didn't matter. He had already assembled an insurmountable lead of 17 points.

Armstrong won US$40,000 and a four-carat diamond-encrusted trophy, which the six-foot-four, 310-pound thrower planned to leave in the care of his mom Judy, who made the trip from Kamloops to see him compete.

"It's very heavy," Armstrong said, laughing. "I don't want to be packing this thing around Europe. The shot puts are enough."

Reese Hoffa threw 22.09 metres to win the meet, and finished second in the Diamond League standings with 16 points. His American teammate Christian Cantwell was third with 11 points, throwing 22.07 Friday.

Armstrong, who finished fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by less than a centimetre, set a goal this season to put some distance between himself and the field.

That's what makes the Diamond League title, rewarded on excellent performance over seven meets, so rewarding.

"I was very pleased about how I performed tonight, being this late in the season, and just being really consistent over that 21-metre mark is a huge improvement this year," Armstrong said.

Armstrong's Diamond League victory comes a year after Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep claimed the title in the women's 100-metre hurdles. The Whitby, Ont., native took this season off to have a baby, and gave birth to daughter Nataliya Ava on Friday.

Friday's celebration might have been unheard for throwers in the past, who competed in the shadow of the track athletes. But Armstrong said he's lucky to be a part of a surge in popularity in the throwing events, especially in the big-ticket meets in Europe.

"We're a hot event," Armstrong said. "We're probably I would say pretty well up with the 100 (metres) as far as depth, our performances are very very deep. You've got six guys over 21 metres tonight, you're not going to see that all the time."

Armstrong has two more meets in Europe, in Morocco and Poland, before returning home. He'll also compete at the Pan American Games, Oct. 14-30 in Guadalajara, Mexico. But by that time, the thrower said he'll be in the thick of his training for next season and the London Olympics.

"I've set some goals out for next year and I definitely have high motivation going into next year," Armstrong said. "I have to definitely train very smart and just continue doing what I've been doing."

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