KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Chants of “Dylan, Dylan” broke out in the Tournament Capital Centre as Dylan Armstrong walked the red carpet towards his Olympic bronze medal Sunday.
Six and a half years after the performance that earned it, the shot putter celebrated his achievement in his hometown of Kamloops, B.C., and in the fieldhouse where he trains.
Armstrong was finally presented with his ronze bmedal from the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. He is the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal in shot put.
In the infield of the indoor track, Armstrong stepped onto a low platform, hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser hung the bronze medal around his neck and the Canadian anthem played.
The ceremony coincided with Sunday’s celebration of the Canadian flag’s 50th birthday. Armstrong collected one from his mother Judy and paraded the Maple Leaf in front of hundreds of people who came to cheer the country’s first Olympic throwing medal since 1912.
“To have our community come out like this, a lot of people I haven’t seen for a long, long time, it just really hits my heart,” Armstrong said. “To have it here in this facility means a lot to me.
“I’ve had support from the time I was nine years old in the track club.”
It wasn’t until 2013 that third place was stripped from Andrei Mikhnevich of Belarus. He tested positive for a stimulant and steroids in a re-test of stored urine samples from the 2005 world track and field championships.
Armstrong finished fourth in Beijing. He missed bronze by less than a centimetre with a Canadian-record throw in the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
“It just shows if listen to your coach and you’re dedicated and you work hard, you can do it clean,” Armstrong said. “I’m a prime example of that.
“I was extremely happy with my own performance. To go to Beijing and get a new national record, to compete the best I’d ever competed on that day is very hard to do.”
The Canadian Olympic Committee arranged Sunday’s ceremony and said attendance was about 1,200. COC president Marcel Aubut said he was “over the moon” to hand Armstrong what was the original medal, not a replica.
“Justice is being done. I love this too,” Aubut said. “The cheaters, there is no room for them in this game.”
Among those attending Sunday’s event were Armstrong’s coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk, Olympic champion skier Nancy Greene-Raine who is a Canadian senator, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod and Kamloops mayor Peter Milobar.
Armstrong’s mother Judy said the wait has been difficult at times as the wheels of justice turned slowly.
“For him, I would say it was probably hard at times because he kept wondering in his mind ‘am I going to get it, will they give it to me?”’ she said. “There’s so many hoops to go through.
“I had this vision in my mind I guess of him on the podium and them playing O Canada and today fulfilled that.”
A four-time Olympic gold medallist in hockey, Wickenheiser was the International Olympic Committee’s representative because she serves on the athletes’ commission. She felt for Armstrong, who wasn’t able to experience his moment of glory on that day in Beijing.