It’s been an up-and-down day for Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee: just missing out on a medal, winning bronze, then having it taken away again all in a matter of hours.
He competed in the 50-kilometre race walk on Friday, and finished fourth with a time of 3:41:38 – just 14 seconds behind Hirooki Arai of Japan.
Then it looked like he had bronze, when Arai was disqualified from the event.
At issue was a bump from Arai. With only about two kilometres left in the race, Dunfee made a move to overtake Arai. He managed to do it, pulling ahead briefly, but Arai made a move of his own – bumping the Canadian as he went by.
That bump threw Dunfee off his stride and he wasn’t able to recover. Despite making another effort, he couldn’t pull back into third place.
Shortly after the race, Athletics Canada announced on Twitter that it was filing a protest about the bump. An hour or so later, it announced that it had won the appeal.
Arai was disqualified for the hit. But, the Japanese team filed their own appeal and won: giving the bronze medal back to Arai and putting Dunfee back into fourth place.
Officials reviewed video of the altercation to determine whether it constituted an infraction and whether the Japanese athlete should be disqualified. They apparently changed their minds at least twice: disqualifying Arai and then bringing him back in.
Athletics Canada released a brief statement on Twitter after the medal was stripped from Dunfee. “Here’s what we know,” it begins.
“Immediately after the race, upon urging from our on-site staff, the Technical Delegate reviewed video, judged there was an infraction and awarded Evan Dunfee bronze and disqualified the Japanese athlete.
“The Japanese federation filed a protest, the Jury of Appeals reviewed the situation and overturned the disqualification, thus placing Evan back into 4th place, with the bronze going to Arai of Japan.”
After having his medal reinstated, Arai said the collision with the Canadian was unintentional.
“After I raced I was told I was disqualified. I didn’t intentionally collide with him but the rulings are always decided by the judge and the judge decided. At that moment I thought all I could do was follow his judgement,” Arai said. “But after some time I was told I’m officially third place. It made me so joyful I jumped up in the air. I am very proud of this bronze. I’m very happy to come back to Japan with this medal.”
Friday afternoon, Dunfee released at statement, saying that after reviewing video of the incident he believes the right decision stood and wouldn’t file an appeal to the Court of Arbitration (CAS).
“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,” Dunfee said. “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,” the athlete said.
Bump or no bump, Dunfee’s time set a new Canadian record. The effort cost him something though – he had to be taken off the course in a wheelchair following the race.
Matej Toth of Slovakia won gold with a time of 3:40:58 and Australia’s Jared Tallent won silver.