Damian Warner is officially Canada’s top athlete.
Beating out 22 other candidates, the decathlete Warner was named Wednesday as the recipient of the 2021 Lou Marsh Trophy for a record-setting Olympic performance.
The 32-year-old London, Ontario native won the gold medal in men’s decathlon at the Tokyo Olympics, setting the Olympic record with 9018 points. Warner also served as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremonies of the Games.
After the first round of voting, Warner beat out finalists in sprinter Andre de Grasse, Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, swimmer Maggie MacNeil, soccer goalie Stephanie Labbe, Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid, and Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Davies split the award in 2020 with NFL offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
Calls for change are coming for the actual namesake of the award, though.
The Lou Marsh Trophy, which has been awarded since 1936, takes its name from a former Toronto Star sportswriter, though many have been pushing back in favour of a new title for the award of Canada’s top athlete.
Western University professor Dr. Janice Forsyth detailed Marsh’s history of racism in a column earlier this year for the National Post. Forsyth’s article was brought back into conversation earlier this month on a Twitter thread from TSN commentator Gord Miller, with other writers following suit in bringing attention to the cause.
TSN’s Rick Westhead added that one of the candidates was approached by organizers asking if they’d “refuse to accept” the award in protest.
An agent who represents a Canadian athlete likely under consideration for the Toronto Star-sponsored Lou Marsh Award tells me an organiser reached out to ask if the athlete would refuse to accept.
Marsh, a former Star journalist, used racist & anti-Semitic language in columns.
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) December 8, 2021