Evan Dunfee via Instagram.com
On a rainy Friday, I was sitting in portable 5, taking law class, and everyone was quiet as usual until Mr. Arnold announced: “Hey class, we will have an amazing opportunity to meet with Canadian Olympic hero Evan Dunfee.”
Almost instantly, a wave of whispering surged across the classroom. Part of the discussion centred around “What prize did he get?” Or “Is he a gold medalist?”
After 30 seconds of silence, Mr. Arnold continued: “Evan did not get any medals, because he chose to give the honour to another Japanese racer who bumped his arm.”
At that time, I felt curious about the rationale behind giving a world-class prize away to a foreign competitor. But I found out the answer after Evan introduced himself and told us about his turbulent path to becoming a competitive race walker.
Stepping into the old McRoberts gym, the first thing that I saw was the lofty figure of Evan Dunfee, who was dressed in white. Tall and energetic, he shook hands with all the incoming students.
As we settled down in the gym, Evan kicked off his presentation by asking a thought-provoking question: “What characters do you guys think make an Olympian?”
A couple of people raised their hands. Words like “persistence”,“courage” and “bravery” were common answers.
Dunfee then showed us some images of his teenage life, which depicted him as a race runner on the tracks of Kingswood elementary school.
“When I was young, I was targeted by many bullies who were taller and stronger than me.”
As Evan shuffled the slides, we found out that he has been involved in a wide array of sports such as ice hockey and soccer before finally taking an interest in race walking.
Students reacted with a “Wow!” when we were shown an image depicting him running on a treadmill with a medical oxygen generator covering his face for three hours.
“Winning, all I cared about is winning. I practised day and night just for Aug. 19, 2016.”
I could tell that he is really passionate about earning that honour for Canada. Next, he switched to a video clip from CBC showing Hirooki Arai bump his shoulder and pass him.
“Well, that’s so mean” a guy at the back murmured. “Why? Why not appeal to the discipline committee to revoke the membership of that foreign athlete?” complained another student.
“I was thinking of making an appeal and take that medal home, because I was irritated and eager to garner that medal for my country. But later I realized that winning isn’t everything and I told my teammates that I decided to quit the opportunity to appeal because I felt it was the right thing to do at that time. And…I have never had even a slightest sense of regret for doing so.”
Evan’s words prompted an explosive wave of applause. Needless to say, we were all impressed.
Evan became best friends with Hirooki Arai and they still keep in touch through social media.
For me, meeting with this unconventional Olympic hero was truly a singular experience that I will never forget.
At the end of his presentation, the screen displayed a quote: ”A dream is a dream, a goal is a dream with a plan that you are aiming to achieve.”
Almost all of the students tossed some coins and bills into a donation box; Evan was also raising funds for KidSport, a local charity striving to support underprivileged youth with a passion for athletics and sports.
What a great afternoon.