This article was written by Kerry Gillespie and originally published on The Toronto Star's website.
On Sunday in Kamloops, his hometown, the Canadian shot putter will be awarded the bronze medal he won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
He has been called the “one centimetre man” for seemingly missing an Olympic shot put podium by that very margin at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
But now, Dylan Armstrong will finally be known for what he should have been all along: Winning Canada’s first ever Olympic shot put medal.
On Sunday, Armstrong will get to wear the bronze medal he earned in the Bird’s Nest stadium with his 21.04-metre throw but was robbed of receiving at the time because of the cheating competitor ahead of him.
Olympic athletes in general, and those in events rarely followed by Canadians in particular, have precious few chances in their careers to capitalize on success in their particular sport.
Armstrong missed out on much of that because Andrei Mikhnevich, already a convicted doper, won bronze in the 2008 Games.
Then, last August the shot-putter from Belarus was banned for life for a second doping offence dating back to the 2005, opening the door for Armstrong to be awarded the 2008 Beijing bronze and his 2010 world championships bronze, which he’s already received.
Armstrong could be bitter about what he’s been through, but he’s not.
“I’ve taken it pretty well,” Armstrong said, in an interview from his winter training base in Hawaii. “I don’t want to dwell on the bad stuff, you have to move forward in life.”
However, when prompted, he can think about what he lost by not having that all-important Olympic medal around his neck all these years.
“I can say I lost lots of money, sponsorships and bonuse . . . all those things did happen, for sure,” he said. “Things like that I will never get back but, on the other hand, I’ve just got to look at the spin-offs on this now and keep moving forward.”
And besides, he said, he’s not alone in any of this.
“It’s an unfortunate situation but I’m not the only one it’s happened to. There are lots of people out there that have been in my situation.”
Cross-country skier Beckie Scott, figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier and synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette all received belated Olympic medal upgrades because of judging or doping scandals.
Armstrong, 6 1/2 years to the day after he earned it, will receive his medal Sunday afternoon in his hometown of Kamloops, B.C., in an event promoted by his mom, the head of the local track and field club.
Canadian Olympic hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser, a member of the IOC athletes’ commission, will present Armstrong with his medal.
“I’m super-excited, especially to be having it in Canada in my hometown,” Armstrong said. “There’s going to be a lot of people coming out.”
But it’s no Bird’s Nest and that, when he thinks about it, is the real thing he missed.
“You can never replace that moment, standing on the podium in Beijing in front of 100,000 people at the Olympics. That’s the hardest part of this, not being able to ever feel that.”
At the 2012 London Olympics, Armstrong was touted as Canada’s top medal hope in athletics, but an elbow injury had badly hampered his training and he came away with a disappointing fifth-place finish.
Now, six weeks after surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, he’s back training and thinking about his next and, surely his last, Olympics.
He’ll be 35 at 2016 Rio Olympics.
“It’s quite easy to get strong but it’s a whole different thing to get into some actual throwing shape,” he said.
He’s easing back in and training with “the light guy,” he said, referring to his 14-pound shot instead of the 16-pound one used in competition.
While shot putters are routinely credited for their size and strength — Armstrong carries over 300 pounds on his six-foot-four frame — it’s actually the speed of his throwing arm and the angle of his release that will determine how far down the field his shot lands.
“It’s definitely a lot of wear and tear on the body,” he said. “At some point you have to realize I’ve done enough, and I do want to walk when I’m 50 years old.”
But that day hasn’t come yet, he said.
So he’ll keep doing what he’s been doing and hopes to be rewarded in Rio with a medal.
At the actual Games this time.
With files from The Canadian Press