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TUESDAY, February 17, 2015

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SPORTS

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Justice served MARTY HASTINGS

STAFF REPORTER

sports@kamloopsthisweek.com

J

udy Armstrong embraced her granddaughter, Paisleigh, and watched intently, holding back tears. The crowd of about 1,100 at the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC) on Sunday, Feb. 15, waited and listened to distinguished speakers praise her son, Dylan, who was about to receive the bronze medal he won in shot put at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing. Listening from behind a black curtain, there must have been shivers running up and down his spine when the chant broke out — “Dylan, Dylan, Dylan!” Armstrong emerged, wearing red, walked to the podium and four-time Olympic champion Hayley Wickenheiser put the medal around his neck. Armstrong’s nearly seven-year wait was finally over. “It’s nice to have the original medal and nobody can ever take that away from me,” Armstrong told a scrum of reporters. “The community has been totally behind me every step of the way. We live in a really special place.” For the Armstrong family, the event on Sunday was the culmination of a saga that started long before Beijing. “When Dylan was a little boy, he wrote an essay on how he wanted to go to the Olympics,” Judy said. “In my mind, I had a vision of him on the podium with a Canadian flag. We achieved that today.” The 34-year-old from Kamloops was robbed of his Olympic

moment by Andrei Mikhnevich, the doping Belarusian who threw less than one centimetre farther than Armstrong in the Bird’s Nest Stadium on Aug. 15, 2008. In August of 2014, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped the Belarusian of the medal. The very same bronze hardware that hung around the neck of Mikhnevich — he was forced to hand it over to the IOC — rested comfortably on the broad shoulders of the 6-foot-4, 306-pound Westsyde secondary graduate on Sunday. “I was getting all emotional,” said Jessica Vliegenthart, a paralympian from Kamloops. “No athlete wants to see another athlete get cheated out of a medal and I’m so happy he’s getting it today, but it’s really different when you’re in the moment and you’re at the Games and there’s so much emotion. “It’s tough to think he missed out on a little bit of that.” Vliegenthart added the ceremony was “the coolest thing ever” and said it must feel like a dream come true for the Armstrong family. That certainly was the feel on Sunday — it was about relishing what he has now, not looking back with regret. It was National Flag Day. There was red everywhere. Everyone faced the Maple Leaf and sung O Canada. “Someone just said to me, ‘Maybe things happen for a reason,’” Judy told KTW. “To have it here in his hometown in front of all these people that couldn’t come to Beijing . . . it was a wonderful moment.” Armstrong has not spoken with Mikhnevich since

the Beijing Games. Vliegenthart was eight when Olympic gold-medallist Nancy Greene signed her skiing helmet. She remembers being in awe of Greene. There were dozens of starstruck children sitting in the TCC bleachers on Sunday, including sixyear-old Kaiya Kobayashi, whose mother spoke to KTW. “For her [Kaiya], she’s up and coming and it’s nice to see her looking at this and getting inspiration. “I can’t believe it took this long for him to get it and I’m glad he got justice.” Speakers included master of ceremonies Scott Russell of CBC, Athletics Canada CEO Rob Guy, Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar, Canadian Olympic Committee member Marcel Aubut, KamloopsThompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod and Health Minister Terry Lake. Armstrong posed for a plethora of pictures and signed hundreds of autographs. Swarmed, he was sweating, trying to acknowledge the wellwishes of his supporters in fleeting conversations. Amid the madness, KTW spoke to Derek Evely, the former head coach of the Kamloops Track and Field Club. “I knew from the moment I met Dylan that there was something special about him, his passion for the sport, his energy, his work ethic and his coachability, more than anything,” said Evely, who coached Armstrong from the ages of 14 to 25. “It’s really nice to see everything come full circle and to see things end this way.” Among the most contented

Nearly seven years after competing at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, Dylan Armstrong was presented with the bronze medal he won in shot put. After four-time Olympic champion Hayley Wickenheiser put the hardware around Armstrong’s neck, he walked over to his mother, Judy, who gave him a Canadian flag. KTW photographer Allen Douglas snapped the photos on this page and many more of his pictures are online at kamloopsthisweek.com.

Dylan Armstrong’s grandmother, 92-year-old Ruth, is holding six-month-old great granddaughter, Paisleigh. Dylan’s aunt Carla and uncle Barry are on either side.

observers was Dylan’s 92-year-old grandmother, Ruth, who had a front-row seat for the show.

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