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50K race walk preview: will Canada’s Evan Dunfee get redemption?

Follow Canada's Evan Dunfee as he sets his sights on the podium in Sapporo

Evan Dunfee

The 50K race walk starts tonight in Sapporo, and we’re here to take you through the favourites and how Canada’s Evan Dunfee will fare against the elusive field. For those who don’t know, race walking is conceivably the most unique Olympic sport, as the race walkers must follow a strict set of rules throughout the 50K distance to avoid disqualification. 

The race walker’s leading leg must be straight when their foot is making contact with the ground, and it must remain straight until it passes underneath the body. There are race walking judges positioned around the course to ensure that all athletes follow the rules. A race walker can be disqualified if they receive three red cards for poor form.

RELATED: Curious about race walking? Here’s how to give it a try

This 50K race walk is wide open, as Australia’s Jared Tallent, who has found the podium at three straight Olympic games, won’t be on the start line in Sapporo, due to a career-ending injury. This opens the podium for Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who will be looking for redemption after a dramatic fourth-place finish in Rio over this distance.

On the last lap of the 50 kilometre race in Rio, Dunfee made a move for third place against Japanese race walker Hirooki Arai. After Dunfee passed Arai, he made a move along the inside, bumping Dunfee in the process, which threw off his rhythm after three and a half hours of race walking. Canada appealed the move giving Dunfee the medal, then Japan launched a protest against Canada’s appeal, and won their protest. Therefore, Arai was moved back to the bronze medal position.

Dunfee is known to race smart and possesses high-end speed to contend with the race favourites. Another Canadian to watch in this event is Mathieu Bilodeau, who already has some racing under his belt this season, with a second-place finish at a 35K race in Slovakia. 

Evan Dunfee
Evan Dunfee races at the Rio Olympics in 2106. Photo: Athletics Canada

The Japanese contingent of Masatora Kawano, who holds the Japanese national record in the event, and Satoshi Maruo, who won the Japanese national championships in the event on this course, are strong medal favourites. Dunfee, who has been in national record form this year, setting two race walking national records over 5,000 and 10,000m, will need to bring that form to the start line to break up the speedy Japanese duo.

RELATED: Race walking 50K distance eliminated from Olympics after 2020

It has been 29 years since Canada has last been on the podium in race walking. Can Dunfee take Canada back to glory? 

Catch the start and all of the race walking action Thursday at 4:30 p.m. E.T., here.