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Cliff and Dunfee among finalists for Sport BC’s Athlete of the Year awards

Runners and race walkers, including Rachel Cliff and Evan Dunfee, are nominated in five categories this year

Sport BC has been honouring amateur athletes with its Athlete of the Year Awards for 54 years–the longest standing sport recognition event in Canada. This year’s event, to be hosted by CBC Sports host Scott Russell, will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre on Thursday, March 12. The organization has announced an impressive roster of finalists from various sports across 14 categories, with runners or race walkers represented in five.

Here are those athletes:

Rachel Cliff is nominated in the Senior Female Athlete of the Year category. Cliff set four Canadian records in 2019: the 25K, 30K and marathon at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in March, then lowered her own half-marathon (set in 2018) at the Sanyo Ladies’ Half-Marathon in Okayama, Japan in December. (Cliff’s marathon and half-marathon records have now fallen–to Malindi Elmore in the marathon and Andrea Seccafien in the half.) Cliff represented Canada in the 10,000m at the Pan Am Games and in the 5,000m at the World Championships in 2019.

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RELATED: Rachel Cliff breaks her own Canadian half-marathon record by two seconds

Lynn Kanuka, a former Canadian record-holder in the 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m and 10K road and bronze medallist in the 3,000m at the 1984 Olympics, is nominated in the Female Coach of the Year category. Kanuka is coach to Natash Wodak, the Canadian 10,000m record-holder, who also briefly held the Canadian half-marathon record earlier this year.

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RELATED: On this day in 1984: Canadian Lynn Kanuka wins Olympic bronze in L.A.

Evan Dunfee won the bronze medal in the 50K race walk in fearsomely hot, humid conditions at the World Championships in Doha in September 2019. Two months earlier, he shattered his own 10,000m Canadian record by nearly 30 seconds.

Jasneet Nijjar is nominated in the High School Female Athlete of the Year category. Nijjar won triple gold at the B.C. High School Athletics Championships in 2019: in the 100m, 200m and the 100m hurdles, running her PB of 12.05 in the 100m. It was the second year in a row that Nijjar had won three gold medals at the meet. Nijjar graduated from Queen Elizabeth High School in Surrey and now runs for Washington State University.

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RELATED: Evan Dunfee stopped at 74 drink stations en route to a World Championship bronze

Nathan Riech, who won the men’s T-38 1,500m at both the IPC World Championships and the Parapan American Games in 2019, breaking meet records both times, is nominated in the Athlete with a Disability category. Also in 2019, not only did he lower his own world record in the event to 3:57 (at a meet in Burnaby), but his world record in the 800m (1:57.78), set in 2018, was ratified.

Riech’s disability stems from a brain injury sustained when at age 10 he was struck in the back of the head by a golf ball. T-38 is one of several para classifications that refer to athletes with athetosis, ataxia and/or hypertonia who compete in a standing position.

An additional six awards will be presented at the ceremony including the Best of BC, KidSport BC Community Champion, Harry Jerome Comeback, Daryl Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award and In Her Footsteps Honourees.

Tickets to the event can be purchased here.