Canadian Evan Dunfee elated IAAF keeping 50K race walk
Federation voted to keep event for 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee can breathe a lot easier today.
For about a week, the Richmond, B.C., native was worried the 50-kilometre race walk event would be discontinued by the IAAF, a move that would've effectively ripped his career apart.
But the Olympian received some great news Thursday as the track and field federation voted to keep the event as part of its program, IAAF president Sebastian Coe announced from London.
The possibility of cancelling the competition past 2018 garnered plenty of opposition from the race walk community.
"I am very relieved," Dunfee told CBC Sports in an email. "It is hard to say what, if any, our role as athletes speaking up made in this decision but I am so proud of the larger community for organizing so quickly and speaking with one unified voice. I think that lends credit to how amazing this community of athletes is. We had a masters athlete, Paul de Meester, fly on his own accord to London, booked into the same hotel the IAAF were meeting in and delivered his impassioned plea for the saving of his event."
The IAAF vote to keep the 50km means the event will continue through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"Sebastian spoke to the fact that no changes before Tokyo would happen, in part because athletes are already training towards those Games, and in some cases been training a substantial portion of their lives for that moment," said Dunfee. "As an athlete falling into that category, having been training towards 2020 since I was 11-years-old, I thank the council for appreciating the sacrifice we have made as athletes to see it through."
The fate of the 50km beyond the 2020 Olympics remains unclear, but Dunfee is encouraged by the event's future.
"Beyond Tokyo it seems there will be more discussions about the future of the event and I welcome those discussions," he said. "As long as athletes have a seat at the table to have our voices heard we had no reason to fear change, but rather welcome the opportunity to evolve and bring our event into a new era of popularity."
The 28-year-old emerged on the international scene at the Pan Am Games in 2015, winning gold in the 20-km event.
He then set a new Canadian record in the 50 km race walk at the Olympics in Rio, where he placed fourth.
It appeared the Canadian had won bronze after it was first determined Japan's Hirooki Arai made contact with Dunfee. But officials overturned the decision, dropping Dunfee to fourth place.
Dunfee then advised the Canadian athletics team not to protest the decision, which further endeared him to fans.