Warner brothers race to 2012 Olympic Games


File Photo: Ryan Riley/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s Ian Warner looks at the results after finishing the 100-meter dash Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Warner placed fifth in the event.

Dylan Montz

Ian Warner has always been very close with his brother, Justyn. 

The brothers had the same friends growing up, transferred to the same high school and played on the same sports teams together.

Now, Ian will be following his older brother once again.

This time, however, it will be to the 2012 Olympic Games in London representing the Canadian track and field team.


Qualifying for the Olympics is a dream that began when the Warners were kids chasing each other around their Toronto neighborhood. Their competitiveness first came about by way of a childhood game.

“It was the game Manhunt,” Justyn said. “We used to play it in our neighborhood with all of the local kids. We lived in a cul-de-sac where in the center, there was a light pole in a grass island. The first one there and back without getting caught won the game. That’s where our speed first came in.”

When the Warners were playing Manhunt and eventually moving on into organized sports, Ian did not consider athletics between his brother a competition because of the difference in age and physical maturity between himself and Justyn.

Debbie Warner, Justyn and Ian’s mother, said despite the differences in age and physical ability when they were younger, Ian would eventually come close to catching his brother.

“Ian’s always been very competitive,” Debbie said. “Justyn knows Ian is coming [to catch him] since Ian has been saying it since he could talk.”

Ian said he first saw the gap between him and his brother decrease after they were both out of high school.

“When he was at TCU and I was at my first year at Iowa State, I saw that age didn’t really matter anymore and so it was more of a competition then,” Ian said.

A Warner brother victory

Justyn and Ian had done it. They had made it the finals of the 100-meter dash at the Canadian Olympic Trials on June 29 in Calgary, Alberta.

They were fewer than 11 seconds away from achieving their first Olympic Games. And with so much at stake, the Warner family was very calm about the upcoming race.

“I think it was the most calm and relaxed I had ever been before a race,” Justyn said. “I had already done the work months — and potentially years — before, so I knew that I was ready to run fast in the 100-meter final.”

“I wasn’t as nervous as I usually am,” Debbie said. “I think I was more nervous for Justyn because he false started at Nationals last year, so I had that in the back of my mind and I was thinking, ‘Okay, I know you want a good start but wait for the gun.’”

As the race started, Justyn and Ian both had good starts and at acceleration, Justyn pulled slightly away from the pack and finished in 10.15 seconds, faster than the Olympic “A” standard time of 10.18. 

Ian completed the Warner sweep by finishing second in 10.20, just .02 seconds away from an automatic qualifying “A” standard time. But Ian was just happy to be in the moment at that point.

“The race went by really fast and was just a blur,” Ian said. “When I crossed the line, I looked over and saw my brother and knew that we had come away one-two. I was just really happy to know that.”

Debbie said despite having a very good view of both of her sons during the race, she couldn’t quite see where Ian finished until his name was displayed on the scoreboard.

“I knew Justyn had won, but I wasn’t if Ian was second or third, and my husband said, ‘No, Ian was second. They got one-two!’” she said. “And when it came up on the screen that Ian was second, I was like, ‘Yes, they did it.’”

Justyn said he was happy for his brother’s name to appear second on the scoreboard after his own.

“[Ian] ran up to me [after the race] and was screaming ‘We did it! We did it!’” Justyn said. “We had been talking about a Warner brother victory for a good month or so and that it was very possible. We’ve come so far and I’m still in amazement about it all.”

Cherry on the sundae

Even after his second place finish in the Canadian Trials, Ian will race at the NACAC Under-23 Championships on July 6 in Mexico in order to qualify him for the 100-meter dash in the London Olympics.

Ian, however, has solidified his place as a member of the Canadian 4×100-meter team along with his brother, Justyn.

“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” Justyn said. “Sharing our first Olympics together is priceless. We don’t know what could happen when the next Olympics rolls around in 2016, so our parents are going to make the trip, and we will all just enjoy this journey and milestone together.”

ISU sprints coach Nate Wiens said the memories the Warners will share will be lifelong and very special to both of them. Ian is the first Olympian Wiens has coached in college.

“To go one-two at the Canadian Trials, those are memories that you can’t recreate and those are memories that you don’t just make on a whim,” Wiens said. “That stuff takes four, six, eight, 10 years of dedication to be able to say, ‘We did that and we did that together.’ To share that experience with him and to be an Olympian, there’s not really a whole lot that can top that besides getting into an Olympic final with your brother.”

For Debbie, watching two sons compete for Canada in the Olympics will bring her great pride, she said, but not necessarily any more pride than she felt about her boys before they were Olympians.

“I don’t know if I could say we’re any prouder now than before the race,” Debbie said. “Honestly I know going to the Olympics [is a big deal], but we were very proud of these kids beforehand. The pride we feel is the pride in their ability to persevere and overcome the obstacles and injuries that they’ve had to face athletically.

“Going to the Olympics is just a cherry on top of the sundae.”