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British Columbia's Dunfee takes Controversial Fourth at Olympic Games

August 21, 2016
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Story by: Len Catling, British Columbia Senior Manager, Media Relations and Communications
Photo by: David Jackson, Canadian Olympic Committee

VANCOUVER – British Columbia School of Kinesiology alum and 2011 NAIA race walk champion Evan Dunfee (Richmond, B.C.) wrote his chapter in the Canadian Athletics and Thunderbirds history books Friday morning in Rio and then had the chapter painfully re-written hours later.

The 25-year-old Dunfee, was awarded the bronze medal in the 50-kilometre race walk event after Japanese runner Hirooki Arai was disqualified for bumping Dunfee when he passed in him in the late stages of the race. It would have been the first medal in track and field ever won by a UBC Thunderbird alumnus. But just after 12 noon Pacific time, the Canadian appeal was overturned by the IAAF and Dunfee was moved back to fourth place.

In a statement released by Athletics Canada, Dunfee said he would not make an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Here is an excerpt of the statement:

“Following my return to the village and my viewing of the incident I made the decision not to appeal, as I believe the right decision stood.

Not many people can understand the pain athletes are in three and a half hours into such a grueling race. I believe that both the Japanese athlete and myself got tangled up but what broke me was that I let it put me off mentally and once I lost that focus, my legs went to jello. Contact is part of our event, whether written or unwritten and is quite common, and I don’t believe that this was malicious or done with intent. Even if an appeal to CAS were successful I would not have been able to receive that medal with a clear conscience and it isn’t something I would have been proud of.

I will sleep soundly tonight, and for the rest of my life, knowing I made the right decision. I will never allow myself to be defined by the accolades I receive, rather the integrity I carry through life.”

Dunfee, who was leading at the 45-kilometre mark, finished in three hours 41 minutes 38 seconds, breaking his own Canadian record of 3:43:45.

UBC's track and field head coach Laurier Primeau, who knows Dunfee and his Canadian team very well, believes although the end result is heartbreaking, a fourth-place finish on the sport's biggest stage is still an incredible accomplishment.

"He has a remarkable team behind him and with him. Two of which are also UBC graduates, Ben Thorne and Inaki Gomez," said Primeau. "I'm sure Evan would agree that one of the most influential people in his life is his coach Gerry Dragomir, who is incredibly detail oriented and examines all components of training for that great Canadian race walking contingent."

Dragomir, who has completed a graduate degree from UBC, is the brains behind UBC track and field's development of one of the top race walking programs in North America.

Slovakia's Matej Toth won gold in 3:40:58 while Australia's Jared Tallent was second in 3:41:16. Dunfee won gold in the 20-kilometre race walk at last summer's Pan American Games in Toronto. He won the 2011 NAIA race walk event in 20:02.25, a time that still stands as the championship record.

Championship Information

Sports Rules - Outdoor Track & Field (M)