Canadian Evan Dunfee takes first in race walk at Harry Jerome Classic

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BURNABY, B.C. — Evan Dunfee's biggest competitor Tuesday was someone he couldn't even see.

A year after smashing his own national record in the 10,000-metre race walk at the Harry Jerome Classic in Burnaby, B.C., the Canadian was back and looking to repeat the feat.

Dunfee finished first with a time of 40 minutes 38.99 seconds on Tuesday, but couldn't beat the 38:39.72 he posted in 2021.

“It was tough out there, thinking with like, 500 (metres) to go being like, ‘I just finished this race this time last year,'" he said. "You know, never fun to be lapped by your ghost but it's just a different point.

"Last year, I was in the best shape I've ever been in leading into Tokyo and everything was going better than I could have possibly imagined.”

Dunfee was one of several Canadian Olympians in competition at the Harry Jerome Classic.

Damian Warner, who earned gold in decathlon in Tokyo, won the men's 110-metre hurdles with a time of 13.68 seconds, well off his season best of 13.36.

After hitting the third and fourth hurdle, Warner knew his time wouldn't be optimal.

"I thought to myself, 'This time is not going to be very fast but just win the race.' And it just got messy, messy, messy," he said. "But again, it was enough to win. And sometimes you have to compete and you want to challenge yourself and put yourself in situations where things aren't going well."

Warner struggled in the men's long jump, too, with multiple fouls but still finished first with a 7.69-metre jump.

"I'll take something from this competition and hopefully you don't get faced with the same situations at world championships," said the native of London, Ont. "But if we do then maybe I'll be able to handle it a little bit better."

Madeleine Kelly of Pembrooke, Ont., had a rocky start in the women's 800 metres but finished first with a time of 2:02.22.

"I didn't get off the line particularly well, so last or almost last at the cutting was not the goal," she said. "But once that happened I just wanted to practise staying calm and navigating the pack well because that can happen at a championship and then you just got to do the best with the spot you put yourself in."

After finishing 31st in the 800 metres in Tokyo, Kelly has had a solid start to the 2022 season, posting a pair of sub-two-minute times.

She'd hoped for a better result in Burnaby, but will settle for first place.

"Not the time I wanted but a wins a win and that's a great field of women so yeah, going away happy," she said.

In women's long jump, two-time Olympian Christabel Nettey appeared to get a bump after a recent coaching change. The 31-year-old from Surrey, B.C., began training with Nick Newman in Knoxville, Tenn., about seven weeks ago.

“I pretty much went into boot camp," she said. "My new coach, he was like 'You're not competing. We're just going to train.'"

The pair have been focusing on maximizing Nettey's speed, she said. The strategy worked Tuesday, with Nettey finishing first with a 6.61-metre jump.

"I'm so invested and I'm having a lot of fun," she said. "And it's obviously a lot more fun when the work pays off. So I'm just really excited right now."

Dunfee followed his performance at last year's Harry Jerome Classic with a bronze-medal performance at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing the 50-kilometre race walk in 3 hours 50 minutes and 59 seconds.

With a nagging upper-hamstring injury, the 31-year-old said he isn't in quite the same form this season, but he's working his way up to July's World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Where his race walking career goes after this season, however, remains unclear.

Dunfee said he'd love to compete in the 20-kilometre race walk at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but right now he's looking ahead to another passion: municipal politics. He's running for city council in Richmond, B.C., this fall.

The new challenge has been really enjoyable, Dunfee said.

"There've been days where I've been like 'Ah, I know, I have to go do my like easy 10k. But I really want to read this 200-page planning document,'" he said. "I just dove headfirst into this municipal politics thing and I'm trying to find a new way to use my platform and my community involvement to find some fun ways to really contribute to my community in new ways."

The two-time Olympian will have one advantage over the other candidates heading into the vote on Oct. 15.

"If nothing else, I'm going to be the most efficient door knocker," Dunfee said with a smile.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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