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Olympic views from Tokyo: Richmond racewalker Evan Dunfee takes News readers inside the Games

Dunfee offers Richmond News readers an exclusive peek inside the delayed 2020 Games in Japan

The Games have started and I’m writing this moments after Maggie MacNeil claimed Canada’s first gold - I will never not get goosebumps watching a Canadian on top of the podium!

These Games have not been without controversy and I believe it is appropriate to question whether, in the midst of a pandemic (still) the Games should be proceeding this year.

But like many things when it comes to the IOC, the athletes have no real choice.

The Games are happening, this is our livelihood, what we’ve dreamed of since we were small children and ultimately, our jobs.

While I may have those questions, I am unwavering in my belief that the athletes have a tremendous amount of positive value and possess the ability to inspire their community and their country.

As I sit here in my hotel room at our athletics pre-Games training camp in Gifu prefecture, some 400K from the athletes village and 1300K away from where I will race in Sapporo in nine days’ time, I find myself inspired.

Inspired by stories like Brent Hayden coming out of retirement and swimming faster than ever, of all of our mothers and fathers doing it for their kids back home, and by the next generation of Canadian superstars, many of whom are competing alongside those they emulated in training when they were kids, dreaming of being on this stage.

And honestly, I’m so thankful to have my eyes glued to these inspiring stories right now because without them I’d be bored out of my mind.


No glitz or glamour

I know “going to the Olympics” sounds chock full of glitz and glamour, but the reality is a lot more low key — especially this year.

Our movements are very restricted here at our training camp, which makes total sense.

Dedicated floors on our hotel and separate elevators, entrances, and exits keep us isolated and keep us from spreading our risk to the residents of Gifu (we also all tested negative twice before arriving in Japan, and are tested daily while we are here).

We have very limited times when we are allowed to train and it’s either on the track or at a closed 4K loop, 45min away by bus.

While it has been disappointing to not be able to explore what seems like an absolutely beautiful city (what’s the point of being able to walk 50K if you can’t put it to good use exploring new places!), I don’t want to come across as if I’m complaining.

I am so grateful that our hosts here in Gifu are allowing us the opportunity to prepare for the Games here at all.

They didn’t need to, and many other country’s camps were cancelled all together.

They are getting very little in return for our stay now that we can’t interact with the city, although we did have the local track club kids come out and get to cheer us on from about 60m away in the stands, which was adorable and awesome.


No Athletes Village, yet

But for us, the ability to get acclimatized to both the time zone and the heat is crucial to succeeding at these Games.

Both of those things take about two weeks to fully adjust to and with athletes not being allowed to enter the village until five days before they compete, having this training camp is invaluable for peak performance on race day.

From a training stand point, things are looking good.

We have amazing therapists, mental performance professionals, physiologists, and dieticians; you name it we got it here and I’ve been leaning heavily on them to get myself primed and ready to go. Today was the last fast interval training on the track. Six times 2km with a couple minutes rest between each. I started the first one in 8:26 and worked my way down getting quicker each rep until a 7:39 on the last one. It was hot (35+ degrees), it was hard (my heart rate got up to 190 beats per minute at the end) and it checked every box we were aiming for!


Yearning for Richmond’s cheers

There was one thing missing though. It was lonely, I was missing your cheers.

Since Jan. 1, I’ve put in over 4,000K of racewalking around the streets of Richmond.

The love and support I’ve felt out there every single day has been amazing; from the “good lucks” to the “go Evan gos” and the horn honks, I can’t tell you how many hard sessions your support pushed me through this year and how much of the athlete I am right now is the result of this amazing community.

And while I’m a few thousand kilometres away if you’re looking for how you can continue to support me, just go for a walk!

If you’re feeling extra bold, try race walking just heel-toe and pump your arms, it’s really that simple!

Watch out for next week as I’ll be giving an in-depth primer on everything you need to know to follow along with my 50K race, which goes off on CBC on Aug. 5 at 1:30 p.m. (Pacific).