Heartbreak in Rio for Dunfee after Japanese counter-protest

The men’s 50km race walking event was an emotional rollercoaster for UBC alumnus Evan Dunfee. After an arduous race on the 14th day at the Rio 2016 Olympics — in which he completed in 3:41:48 and came in fourth — the 25-year-old was given the bronze medal after Japanese race walker Hirooki Arai was disqualified.

This decision came after Athletics Canada protested the original result, which had Arai in third place. With less than two kilometres left in the race, Dunfee had sped past Arai to move into third place. Arai followed this with a dash of his own, but in the process walked into Dunfee, making him fall out of step.  

“Following the race our coaching staff asked for a review of the video at which point the track referee decided that an infraction had taken place,” Dunfee said in a statement released by Athletics Canada.

The bronze win was compounded by the fact that he had beaten his own Canadian record of 3:43:45.

The BC native was an Olympic bronze medalist for only a few hours. Officials reversed Arai’s disqualification and reinstated his bronze after Japan led a successful counter-protest. Dunfee was moved back to fourth place.

He had a chance to further appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international body that settles sport disputes, but decided against it. In his statement, he said that he did not believe that the contact was “malicious or done with intent.” 

Despite the heartbreaking finish, Dunfee did well, putting out a performance that he is proud of.

“What a day, fourth place at the Olympics in a new National Record. I couldn’t be more proud of my efforts out on the course today,” said Dunfee in the Athletics Canada statement.

“I know that I left everything I possibly had out there and I can’t ask for anything more than that.”