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Canada’s Evan Dunfee fourth in record-setting 20 km race walk

The Richmond, B.C. native kicked off Day 1 of the 2023 World Athletics Championships with a bang, placing fourth in the men's 20 km race walk

Evan Dunfee Photo by: Claus Andersen/Athletics Canada

After much speculation surrounding the men’s 20km race walk event and a two-hour weather delay, Richmond, B.C.’s Evan Dunfee put on a record-setting performance to kick off the 2023 World Athletics Championships for Team Canada. Dunfee finished fourth in 1:18:03, smashing the previous Canadian record by over a minute.

Note: This story has been updated.

Dunfee found himself contending for a podium finish at the 15 km mark, mixed in the lead pack of four men, with five kilometres to go. Spain’s Alvaro Martin put on a surge at 16 km and never looked back, securing gold in a world-leading time of 1:17:32. Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom (1:17:39) and Brazil’s Caio Bonfim (1:17:47) took silver and bronze, setting national records of their own.

The fourth-place result was unexpected for the 2020 Olympic 50km RW medallist Dunfee, who’s known for his strength in the longer race-walk distances. Dunfee has previously expressed his opinion about the 20-kilometre distance, stating it’s “less challenging” and “not as superior” as the 35-km and 50-km distances. (The 50-kilometre race walk distance was removed from the Olympic program in 2021.)

Dunfee, who is close friends with Karlstrom, posted on social media after the race: “There’s nothing I would have wanted more than to be able to stand on the podium with this guy,” wrote Dunfee. “While I came up a bit short, he gave me the confidence to have the race I did today, and I’m so proud of it.”

The event was only minutes away from its scheduled start time when it was delayed by two hours due to inclement weather.

The 32-year-old will be next in action in the men’s 35 km race walk on Thursday, Aug. 24, where he will be one of the favourites to reach the podium.

Day 1 Canadian results

It was also a great day for Quebec’s Jean-Simon Desgagnés and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, both of whom advanced to the next round of their respective events.

Desgagnés placed second in heat 1 of the men’s 3,000m steeplechase in a near personal best of 8:20.04, securing an automatic qualifying spot in Tuesday’s final. After the heat started slowly, the 25-year-old executed the perfect race strategy, making a move in the final 800m to stick with the lead group. On the bell lap, Desgagnés soared over the water jump and found his way out in Lane 3, contending for the win against Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale, who took first place in 8:19.99.

Jean-Simon Desgagnes
Jean-Simon Desgagnés celebrates his qualification into Tuesday’s steeplechase final. Photo: James Rhodes (@jrhodesathletics)

“My strategy was to stay in contact with the lead pack,” says Desgagnés. “We have been training to run a final 1K really fast, so I just did my best to keep myself focused and relaxed.

“Being two seconds away from my personal best in a tactical race, it shows I am in personal best shape and put together a strong finish for the final,” says Desgagnés.

Desgagnés’ training partner Philibert-Thiboutot followed up his inspiring performance later in the evening in the men’s 1,500m heats. In a tough and physical heat featuring Olympic 1,500m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Philibert-Thiboutot held his own, crossing the line in sixth to secure the final automatic qualifying spot for the semi-final in 3:34.60. He will compete in Semifinal #2 against Ingebrigtsen on Sunday afternoon.

“I am excited; I feel good with the effort and I don’t think I could feel more ready right now,” says Philibert-Thiboutot.

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot
Charles Philibert-Thiboutot in the heats of the men’s 1,500m. Photo: James Rhodes (@jrhodesathletics)

When Philibert-Thiboutot was asked about the performance of his training partner, teammate, and world championship roommate, Desgagnés, he gave him high praise. “I saw him train over the last few weeks and knew he was ready for something big,” says Philibert-Thiboutot. “I don’t think he realizes it, but I keep telling him that he is in Canadian record shape—I couldn’t be happier for him.”

In other action from Day 1, Lucia Stafford missed the women’s 1,500m semifinal with a seventh-place finish in Heat 1, with only the top six advancing. In Heat 4 of the women’s 1,500m, Cobourg, Ont., native Kate Current ran a significant four-second personal best of 4:07.23 in her world championship debut.

Kate Current
Kate Current smashes her personal best by four seconds in the women’s 1,500m. Photo: Kevin Morris

In the men’s 100m, Brendon Rodney advanced to the 100m semifinal as the fastest non-automatic qualifier with his 10.16 clocking in Heat 6.

Day 2 action in Budapest will feature the men’s and women’s 1,500m semifinal, the men’s 100m final, and Canada’s Moh Ahmed in the men’s 10,000m final. Ethan Katzberg in the men’s hammer throw is another Canadian athlete to watch; he led qualification with a Canadian record throw of 81.18m.

The 2023 World Athletics Championships are taking place from August 19-27 at the National Stadium in Budapest, Hungary. All the action will be brought to you by Canadian Running and Asics Canada. Follow us on Twitter on Instagram for all things Team Canada and up-to-date exclusive news and content.

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