‘Willed myself to the finish line’: Nanaimo race walker qualifies for Paris Olympics

‘Willed myself to the finish line’: Nanaimo race walker qualifies for Paris Olympics
(Olivia Lundman)
Island-born race walker Olivia Lundman is pictured.

A racewalker from Lantzville, just north of Nanaimo, will be part of Canada’s two-person mixed team relay race at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris next month.

Olivia Lundman, currently a student at the University of British Columbia, will be competing with partner Evan Dunfee, who won the bronze medal for the 50-kilometres race walk at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The pair met at UBC, where Dunfee is an alumnus, and have been training together to prepare for the Olympics.

To qualify, the pair had to finish in the top 22 teams in the qualifying event in Türkiye in April.

“I was struggling at the end of my last 10 kilometres,” Lundman said in a release Thursday. “I stopped to vomit twice and willed myself to the finish line as fast as I could. I had no idea where our position was, and I was worried my struggles might have cost us our qualification.”

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Olivia Lundman and Evan Dunfee are pictured at the qualifiers. (UBC)

Once the pair had crossed the finish line, Dunfee wheeled Lundman to the team tent to recover, and after a breathless 15 minutes, the pair learned they had qualified for the 2024 games.

“That night, I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited knowing that I’m going to the Olympics at the age of 21,” said Lundman.

The upcoming Olympics will be the third time that Dunfee is competing in an Olympic Games, and the first time for Lundman.

Dunfee says he’s seen first hand Lundman’s growth as a coach, and thought that competing together in a mixed relay race would be an opportunity for the Vancouver Island athlete to learn.

“While the women’s individual event was still too much of a jump for Olivia, we knew the mixed relay was our best bet to give her a chance to experience the Olympics early on,” he said.

“The experience will be invaluable to her as an athlete.”

READ MORE: 3 Vancouver Island rowers headed to Olympics with Team Canada

Race walking requires athletes to always have one foot on the ground, and when the foot hits the ground the knee must be straight when the body passes over it, according to UBC.

The university is the only one in Canada that offers race walking as a varsity track and field sport, and it’s partly why Island-born Lundman chose to attend the school.

She says she’s also looked up to Dunfee as a fellow athlete in the niche sport.

“Having Evan as my coach and teammate is awesome,” said Lundman. “I’ve learned so much from him as my role model and mentor.”

Dunfee, who already qualified for the individual 20 kilometre race, says he’s glad the pair qualified for the team relay as well.

“It was a tough race, but I’m glad we’re going to the Olympics as a team,” he said.

The 2024 Olympics kick off on July 26 and run until Aug. 11.

Until then, the race walking duo will be preparing, including altitude training in Switzerland and heat training in Spain.

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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