Sports

Finishing kick nets Dunfee bronze

By Don Fennell

Published 2:29 PDT, Fri August 13, 2021

Last Updated: 11:18 PDT, Mon August 30, 2021

Richmond race walker an Olympic medallist

Instead of pounding the pavement, Evan Dunfee is ready to put his feet up for a bit.

He’s earned it.

By somehow finding a last-minute burst of energy over the final leg of the men’s 50 kilometre race walk, the 30-year-old athlete from Richmond returned home from the Tokyo Olympics a bronze medallist.

In one of the most grueling events of the Games, a taxing exercise demanding both determination and endurance, Dunfee discovered he had even more to give. In fifth place at that point, he drew inspiration from within, thinking of family and friends who had supported his journey. And when he crossed the finish line in three hours, 50 minutes, 59 seconds, he had realized a childhood dream. 

It was a just result for Dunfee, who five years earlier had narrowly missed reaching the podium when he was edged out for third place at the Rio Olympics. He might have had a medal in those Games too, had it not been for his steadfast insistence that the results stand—despite the possibility of interference that may have thrown off his stride.

But this is Dunfee to the core. A champion who lets his actions speak for themselves, and whose principles define him.

Sure, he would have loved to have won gold in Sapporo. But finishing the race under extreme conditions, heat and humidity challenging him each step of the way, and doing so while upholding the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect—along with fair play—are what matters most.

Never comfortable celebrating his own achievements, Dunfee would much rather be cheering others to realize their potential than basking in his success. But he’s honoured to be able to share the moment—especially if it inspires others to pursue their dreams, athletic or otherwise.

“It’s nice to be home surrounded by friends and family who I can share the medal and the moment with,” he says. “I wanted gold, but I gave everything my body allowed me to give on that race course and I can’t ask for any more than that. I think what I’ll remember most is just sitting in my hotel room in Sapporo FaceTiming my girlfriend Sara while we watched the Games. It’s so nice to have someone that shares my passion for sport and makes it so much more enjoyable than watching it on my own.”

During the Games, Dunfee also felt the closeness of his family—his older brother Adam, who first introduced and taught him the basics of race walking; his ever-supportive and cheering parents, Don and Karen; and his grandparents, notably his late Nana, who was unequivocally one of his biggest fans and who used to say he had wings on his feet.

Short-term, he’ll soon re-focus on training for the world race walking championships scheduled for next summer in nearby Eugene, Oregon, and trying to win the first-ever 35k race there. Beyond that he just wants “to be a positive force here in Richmond,” dedicated to making a difference in his community. Perhaps that will include a run for council in next year’s municipal election.

But above all, Evan Dunfee’s ultimate goal is simple but potentially far-reaching and lasting—“trying to use this medal to get more kids active, setting goals and chasing them.”

“That is more than enough for me,” he says.

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