July 9, 2013, KAZAN, Russia (Team Canada) (ISN) – Canada claimed its first medal at the 27th Summer Universiade on Tuesday morning courtesy of a trio of race walkers from British Columbia.
Inaki Gomez of Vancouver, Ben Thorne of Kitimat and Evan Dunfee of Richmond took third place in the 20-kilometre team competition. Their combined time of four hours, 20 minutes and 35 seconds (4:20:35) left them behind only Russia (4:04:31) and Ukraine (4:08:09).
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Summer Universiade website: www.kazan2013.com/en
Gomez, a 2012 Olympian, was the first Canadian to cross the finish line in a time of 1:22:29, which was good for fifth position in the individual standings. He had also placed fifth in the event at the 2011 FISU Games in Shenzhen, China.
Thorne was 16th in a personal best 1:26:59, while Dunfee was 21st in 1:31:07.
Russia’s Andrey Krivov won individual gold thanks to a Universiade record time of 1:20:47. He was followed at the line by Rusian Dmytrenko of Ukraine (1:20:54) and Russian teammate Denis Strelkov (1:21:32).
The medal ceremony is set for 5:45 p.m. local time (9:45 a.m. ET).
“It’s an honour to win Canada’s first medal in Kazan,” said Gomez, who competed for the University of British Columbia until 2010 and now attends law school at the University of Calgary. “The team event is neat because it adds a whole other dynamic to the competition.
“This was a very strong field, lots of Olympians, including Krivov and Dmytrenko,” added Gomez, who was 13th in the event last summer in London with a time of 1:20.58. “I was four minutes faster today than in Shenzhen.”
All three Canadians were aiming for top-10 finishes individually but Thorne and Dunfee, both UBC students, had to slow their pace after committing two fouls in the first half of the race.
“After I received my second card midway through the race I knew I had to shut it down for the team,” Thorne said. “We only had the minimum of three athletes while Russia had five, and Ukraine and China had four apiece. So I knew if I got a third card, that was the end not only of my race but also of our medal hopes as a team.”
Like his teammates, Dunfee was happy with the medal but also called the result bittersweet.
“It’s great to win a medal but right now it’s hard for me to truly appreciate it because I’m pretty disappointed with my individual result,” said Dunfee, who also earned his second caution near the midway point of the race. “I felt so good today, possibly the best I’ve ever felt at the 10km mark. But like Ben, I knew I had to shut it down for the team.”
The trio will be back in Russia next month for the IAAF world athletics championships in Moscow (August 10-18). Gomez and Thorne will compete in the 20km, while Dunfee qualified for the 50km event.
Canada had won three Universiade medals in race walking in the past. Guillaume Leblanc claimed gold in the 20km in 1983 in Edmonton and bronze in the same event in 1985 in Kobe, Japan, while Ann Peel captured bronze in the 5km in 1987 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
CANADA’S RACE WALKING MEDALS AT THE UNIVERSIADE (4):
2013 (Kazan, Russia): Inaki Gomez, Ben Thorne & Evan Dunfee, bronze, 20km team
1987 (Zagreb, Yugoslavia): Ann Peel, bronze, 5km
1985 (Kobe, Japan): Guillaume Leblanc, bronze, 20km
1983 (Edmonton, Canada): Guillaume Leblanc, gold, 20km