Canada’s Evan Dunfee nabbed the bronze medal in a surprise finish in the 50-kilometre race walk at the Tokyo Olympics Friday.
Dunfee overtook Spain’s Marc Tur in the final moment of the race, crossing the finish line less than ten seconds faster to take third place.
It’s the first Olympic medal in the 50-kilometre event ever won by a Canadian athlete, and second ever to be won by Canada in the sport.
Dawid Tomala of Poland, who led for a good portion of the race, won the gold. The silver went to Germany’s Jonathan Hilbert.
Fellow Canadian Mathieu Bilodeau finished 45th out of the field of 59 — 12 of whom did not finish at all.
Dunfee, originally from Richmond, B.C., had started in 15th position but made his way into the top 10 fastest walkers at the 30-kilometre mark in the grueling race through the streets of Sapporo.
Tur was within the top five for the final 15 kilometres, only for Dunfee to overtake him right before the finish line. Dunfee let out a loud yelp of relief upon realizing he had secured a spot on the medal podium, collapsing on the ground from exhaustion.
It’s the first Olympic medal for Dunfee, who came in fourth in the 50-kilometre race walk at the 2016 Games in Rio and holds the Canadian record for the sport.
Race walking requires athletes to keep one foot on the ground at all times, with the supporting leg staying straight until the other leg passes it.
Despite the slower pace compared to sprinters, the sport is one of the most punishing of the Olympic events. Some of the walkers on Friday had to be taken from the finish line in wheelchairs.
The summer heat in Japan only made the conditions more intense. By the time the last athletes were finishing, it was 32 C in Sapporo but felt like 38 with the heat index.