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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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Eyes forward on the next goal. The half marathon and marathon at @chevronhoustonmarathon were exciting races this year and there were some big results for Canadians. For me, I’m disappointed to have not capitalized on the opportunity better but happy enough with another consistent performance. When I set a new Canadian record in March 2019 I fully expected it would fall sometime – possibly quite quickly. Of course I would have liked to have held it for a little longer but at the same time I’m so inspired by @malindielmore’s performance: mom of two, Olympic runner who stepped back from the sport to start her family only to come back and raise the bar even higher for Canadian running. It’s never too late to chase your dreams and I think I speak for all female runners when I say her story will be one which continues to motivate me in running and whatever else I choose to do. Huge congratulations to Maldini and @tashawodak for their marathon and half marathon records. As distance running in Canada continues to get deeper I’m honoured to be a part of it.

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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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One week post half marathon and I’m finally feeling recovered 🙏 !!! My initial thought is “well then let’s ramp it up!” Thankful for a coach that knows the game so well- and me even better…Lynn’s Email to me today- “Tasha – how feelin'? Let's be really body aware ok? We have Zero Stress to push any buttons and we really want you to be fully recovered such that you feel great by next weekend… no hurry for our purposes right now… So here we go… just run as you feel and enjoy the week, remembering the most important training you can be doing right now is simply continued recovery and finding an easy rhythm again. You are fitter than you've ever been… seriously… so before we can climb to yet another level and head towards your Best 10K, we have to be fully recovered…” 🙌 #coachknowsbest #trusttheprocess #recoveryiskey #followyourownpath #youdoyou #roadtotokyo #bebrave #trainingtips Photo- @itswilsonlau

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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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For the 5th year in a row I’ve opened my season up down in Australia. With Canberra suffocating in smoke from these terrifying fires we’ve had to adjust and move our normal Supernova study to Melbourne. • I’ve honestly felt the worst I’ve felt in years in training these last couple months. But after some promising results on the VO2max the other day I absolutely shocked myself with my fastest ever season opener, 40:09 for 10,000m. It was also my: Biggest ever negative split: 20:36; 19:33 Fastest ever last km: 3:44 Still have a few niggles that need sorting, and a lot of training base to add on, but for the first time in 3.5 months, I’m actually excited for the year ahead. 📸 @detak_au #Saporro2020 #Tokyo2020 #Olympics #Australia #SoALLKidsCanPlay #Balance #TeamCanada #nuunlife #nuunelite #teamtap

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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.