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Long time coming: Canadian shot putter Armstrong finally getting Olympic bronze

02/11/2015 12:43 EST | Updated 04/13/2015 05:59 EDT
The moment will be out of context, but Dylan Armstrong can't wait to have that Olympic medal around his neck.

Six and a half years to the day after just missing the podium at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, the Canadian shot putter will receive a bronze medal Sunday in his hometown of Kamloops, B.C.

"The question I won't miss is 'When are you going to get your medal?'" Armstrong told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. "I'll be extremely happy."

Armstrong finished fourth back in 2008, just a centimetre behind bronze medallist Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus. That fourth-place finish was upgraded to third last August after Mikhnevich was banned for life for a second doping offence.

"It's obviously the one medal that's going to be the most important to me to have accomplished in my career," said Armstrong, the first Canadian shot putter to win an Olympic medal.

It was important to Armstrong that the ceremony be held in Kamloops, but the six-foot-four, 306-pound athlete has left most of the other details to the Canadian Olympic Committee.

"What would be better than my hometown?" he said. "Obviously there were a lot of people in Kamloops who would have loved to come to the Olympics in 2008, but couldn't. I thought it was the most appropriate place."

Star hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser — a member of the IOC athletes' commission — will present the medal.

"One of the best thrills I've had in my career is to bring the medal myself from Lausanne," COC president Marcel Aubut said. "It's one more medal from China for Canada. It's also justice. It's fair play, which is a value of the Olympic movement."

Armstrong's medal increases Canada's overall total in Beijing to 19 — three gold, nine silver and seven bronze — and moves the country from 14th to 13th in the standings.

Sunday's ceremony at Kamloops' Tournament Capital Centre may be unique, but it is no substitute for standing on the Olympic podium at the Bird's Nest Stadium alongside the best in the sport.

It also can't replace the loss of what Armstrong estimates "would be over a million bucks for sure" in endorsements, meet appearance fees and sponsor bonuses.

"I would probably have got more lucrative endorsements and sponsorships and things like that," he said. "I'd be in a way better financial situation for sure, right?

"I don't like to think about the money I lost a lot. There's nothing that can replace that. I tend not to dwell."

What difference getting the medal on the day would have made to the Own The Podium money directed to Athletics Canada is harder to quantify. Armstrong's medal would have been Canada's second bronze in track and field in Beijing.

OTP chief executive officer Anne Merklinger says money doled out is based on future medal potential and not past performances.

"Dylan was identified as a medal potential athlete for 2012 and as a result there was significant support for Dylan and other podium potential athletes for the period of 2009 through 2012," she said in an e-mail.

OTP funding to Athletics Canada over the four years leading into the 2012 Summer Olympics was $4.6 million, which was an increase from the $3.1 million in funding over the quadrennial prior to Beijing.

Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott, figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier and synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette experienced belated Olympic medal upgrades to gold because of judging issues, or doping in Scott's case.

Those athletes expressed regret over missing out on that moment of triumph that can't be recreated.

"You can never replace the moment, but you make the best of it," the 34-year-old Armstrong said.

Former Canadian Olympian Abby Hoffman serves on the anti-doping and medical commission of track and field's international governing body. She will be in Kamloops on Sunday for the ceremony and expects to have mixed feelings.

"However fantastic this event is going to be this Sunday, it doesn't make up for what got missed in 2008," Hoffman said.

"It's great to catch people down the road, but we want to have testing regimes and have prevention programs and apprehension programs and interdiction and all that kind of stuff so the right people get the medals on the day when these events happen, not a week later or a month later or in this case six and a half years later. That's a big motivator."

It's the second belated medal Armstrong has been awarded due to Mikhnevich's liftetime ban. He already has the bronze from the 2010 world championship.

Elbow problems hampered Armstrong's performance in 2012 when he finished fifth in London. He underwent surgery on it Dec. 29 and has yet to commit to competitions in 2015, though he intends to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

His 2008 Olympic medal wasn't won in storybook fashion, but Armstrong hopes kids will still want to see it and put their fingerprints all over it.

"That would be fun," Armstrong said. "It's definitely something I'd like to do and it has a big impact on youngsters."

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