NGWSD: Olivia Lundman is chasing the Olympic dream one race at a time

Race walk is a sport that requires technique, endurance and patience, yet it remains one of the most overlooked track events. The community is small but close-knit, and one of Canada’s top emerging talents races with the UBC Thunderbirds track and field team.

Olivia Lundman grew up in the small town of Lantzville, BC on Vancouver Island as a multi-sport athlete. She played soccer, basketball, field hockey and raced in both cross country and track and field events.

“I'm a big endorser of multi-sport and I do a lot of coaching. I always encourage my athletes to keep on playing every sport [and not to] specialize too young,” said Lundman.

Eventually, Lundman had to choose a sport. “Track just really had my heart and I loved being able to push my body. Watching my times get faster and marks improve, has really driven me to continue pursuing and seeing how much further I can take it.”

Lundman always knew she wanted to continue athletics at university, and UBC was the obvious choice. She could study kinesiology in a highly recognized program and receive athletic coaching from Canadian Olympic race walk coach Gerry Dragomir. “It just made sense; it was all here,” she said.

“Track just really had my heart and I loved being able to push my body."
“Track just really had my heart and I loved being able to push my body." Miriam Celebiler / The Ubyssey

In her rookie season, Lundman broke a 35-year-old record for the 10,000 metre race walk. After setting the record, she was called up to represent the national team in Oman in March 2022.

“To see what I could do with the sport and seeing people from all these different countries and to chat with them and let it sink in that I was competing with the best in the world and I'm, at this level, was really a neat feeling.”

Lundman also went to Colombia in August 2022 to represent Team Canada at the world U20 track and field championships. She brought this experience back and was able to share her stories with future athletes in the sport at the summer games that took place in Prince George.

“It's really neat to get to share my stories with younger athletes and inspire them and encourage them to set goals and chase after their dreams.”

Off the track, Lundman was recognized as an All-Academic Canadian for the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Despite her success, Lundman said balancing athletics and academics hasn’t been easy. “Being a student-athlete is a full-time job, and time management has been key for me to be able to fit everything in.”

She has gained inspiration from many athletes, like Sandi Morris, Cameron Rogers and successful Canadian race walker Rachel Seaman. She even mentioned UBC alumni and Olympic gold medalist Evan Dunfee who Lundman has had the opportunity to train with.

“He's inspired me to have big dreams and chase after my goals, regardless of what others may say. I think he's one of the best advocates for a racewalk that we could ask for.”

“Being a student-athlete is a full-time job."
“Being a student-athlete is a full-time job." Miriam Celebiler / The Ubyssey

Aside from professional athletes, Lundman said her UBC teammates help her push herself to be a better athlete and a better person. “All the girls on the track team, I see them working incredibly hard every day, which is really inspirational.”

Lundman is looking forward to the upcoming track season and is hoping to achieve some qualifying times for the Pan American Race Walking Cup taking place in Nicaragua this April. She is hoping to help her team see success again during their NAIA season.

Lundman has also set her eyes on the Paris 2024 Olympics, which is a possibility, especially with the times she has been putting up.

“It's coming up fast, but my progression over the last couple of years has been quite steep, and so I am excited to see what the next couple of years bring, in the next couple of seasons and see if I can get there,” she said. “It would be really an amazing experience to get to go and just represent my country.”

Lundman hopes to keep a lifelong love for the sport and continue to race walk even when she is not doing it competitively anymore.

February 1 was National Girls and Women in Sports Day.