Canadian Evan Dunfee had an eventful 50 km race walk at the Rio Olympics, one that saw him help one struggling fellow competitor and ended just out of the medals after a controversial bump from another competitor.
After a collision close to the finish line with Hirooki Arai of Japan, Arai was disqualified and Dunfee was bumped up to third place and the bronze medal. However, that medal only belonged to Dunfee for a few hours as Arai successfully appealed the decision and his third-place finish was resinstated.
At that point, Dunfee had the right to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to decide if Arai should be disqualified.
He will not.
In a statement, Dunfee explained that while he may have won the appeal, he wouldn’t have been able to accept the bronze medal with a clear conscious, citing regular contact of such nature in their sport.
“Following my return to the village and my viewing of the incident I made the decision not to appeal, as I believe the right decision stood,” Dunfee wrote.
Dunfee went on to explain that the contact did put him off mentally, that he lost his focus, and his legs “went to jello.”
“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 big moment came just one kilometer from the finish line. Dunfee was in third place as Arai approached from behind and on the left side of Dunfee.
As Arai started to pass Dunfee, the two race walkers got tangled up. It is difficult to see exactly where the contact was, but it was clear that Dunfee (in the white cap) was more impacted by the bump as his hands flew up and he seemed to momentarily lose his balance.
Dunfee was clearly affected by the moment and fell behind Arai who would cross the finish line 14 seconds ahead of Dunfee.
Dunfee first came on the radar earlier in the race when leader Yohan Diniz of France started suffering from intestinal problems and was forced to stop. As Dunfee, who was in second at the time, approcahed Diniz, instead of just overtaking him for the lead, Dunfee encouraged Diniz to keep going and the two then continued on together with a share of the lead.
Dunfee may not have won a medal at the Rio Olympics, but he can go home knowing that he competed the right way and he is almost most certainly a bigger hero for it.
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