Race walking Olympian Evan Dunfee comes to Trail next week for the BC Games 40th Anniversary celebration at the White Garden along the Esplanade. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press.

Race walking Olympian Evan Dunfee comes to Trail next week for the BC Games 40th Anniversary celebration at the White Garden along the Esplanade. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press.

Olympian to visit Trail for BC Games’ 40th

Olympic race walker and KidSport supporter Evan Dunfee has inspired thousands on and off the track.

In just one week, the Silver City will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the BC Games with a very special guest highlighting the evening.

On behalf of Teck and KidSport, Greater Trail’s BC Games Society will welcome Olympian Evan Dunfee as its guest speaker at the Sept. 6 celebration at the White Garden.

“We have a great guest speaker coming in,” said 40th Anniversary Committee Chair, Sue Bock, who added that Teck has also arranged for Dunfee to visit area schools and talk with students and up-and-coming athletes.

“Evan is an alumni,” added Bock. “He was a kid that was part of the (BC) Games at some point that got turned on to the sport that eventually took him to the podium.”

Related Read: Trail celebrates BC Games 40th

The Richmond native is one of Canada’s top race walkers, who recently finished eighth in the 20-km event at the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Australia in April and won the NACAC Championships 20-km race in Toronto on Aug. 10.

Dunfee also won gold in the 20-k race walk at the 2015 Pan Am Games, but is best known for his fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Following the gruelling 50-km race walk, Dunfee was awarded the bronze medal after Japan’s Hirooki Arai was disqualified for apparently elbowing Dunfee in the final minutes of the race.

Arai protested and the decision was overturned, the bronze returned to the Japanese athlete. In a dramatic display of good sportsmanship, Dunfee refused to allow Canada to appeal the decision, settling for fourth in what was a Canadian Olympic-best time.

Dunfee has since emerged as both an athlete and race walking’s ambassador, a voice of reason and fair play in the wilderness of ‘amateur/professional’ sport. In April, the International Olympic Committee considered dropping race walking from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and Dunfee replied with an engaging and scathing indictment of the Games’ and the IOC’s growing commercialism in a public letter printed on CBC’s Player’s Own Voice.

“At the end of the day, we are out to win, but we celebrate the successes of those around us as much as we celebrate our own victories. When I do school talks, the one thing that resonates most with kids is how many countries I have been to, and how many friends I have made from all around the world,” Dunfee wrote.

“Furthermore … I think there are few greater authorities to speak to the value and importance of fair play in sport right now than me. But one thought that makes me very happy is knowing that almost everyone in the race-walking community, if faced with the same decision that I was on whether to appeal for a chance at a medal, would have made the same decision I did. And that is the Olympic spirit in action.”

A week later, the IAAF voted to keep the race-walking event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While Dunfee continues to train, his sponsors afford the Richmond native the opportunity to visit communities like Trail and share his experiences.

“I’m really lucky, [sponsor] Teck Resources support me so well that I can use my free time outside of when I train to really give back to the community. And spend that time I would have to spend working part time, I can spend that in the community doing volunteer work.”

The 28-year-old also works with KidSport, a non-profit organization that helps kids get into sport, and was awarded their community champion award while training in Australia prior to the Commonwealth Games.

Dunfee will visit three Greater Trail schools on Sept. 7, including St. Michael’s in Trail, Fruitvale Elementary School and Ecole Sept Sommets in Rossland and share his story of how he became a race walking icon.

“It (race walking) is a little weird, it looks funny, and not a lot of people care about it. However, I think that is part of the reason I was drawn to it so strongly as an 11-year-old. I was weird, I looked funny, and I thought no one cared about me.

“If race walking can provide the same kind of outlet and opportunity for a kid that feels the same way I did, and carry them 16 years to a point where they are inspiring a community, I can’t see how that alone does not justify its worth in the Olympics.”

Trail hosted the BC Winter Games in 1982 and 2006, and played cohost with Castlegar to the BC Summer Games in 1996 with hundreds of athletes, coaches, volunteers and organizers playing a vital part in the Games’ success.

Past participants, organizers, volunteers, and coaches can RSVP at www.bcgames.org/40th or at www.eventbrite.ca/e/bc-games-40th-anniversary-trail-tickets. Tickets are $5 with all proceeds and donations shared by the Powering Potential Fund and Trail KidSport.

The Community Sport Hero Awards will also be presented at the celebration.