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Island racewalker Lundman qualifies for Paris Olympics

Nanaimo resident coached by Olympian Dunfee
Richmond’s Evan Dunfee and teammate Olivia Lundman of Lantzville secured their Olympic qualification in Turkey. COURTESY EVAN DUNFEE

What are they feeding these kids in the Nanaimo Track and Field Club? Whatever it is, it’s working. The club has qualified its second alumni athlete for the 2024 Paris Olympics this summer with racewalker Olivia Lundman this week joining defending world men’s hammer champion Ethan Katzberg.

“I remember when we were both just little and running around and trying all the events,” said Lundman.

“And now look at the progression. It’s a great testament for the club.”

Lundman, 21, played everything while growing up in Lantzville and attending Dover Bay Secondary — from soccer and basketball to field hockey and cross-country — and ironically settled on a sport in which running is not allowed.

“I am a big advocate for multi-sport participation for kids,” said Lundman.

“I loved to run and competed in every track event and few in the field, including hammer and pole vault, which some find an unusual combination for a racewalker.”

Her rise has been steady and sure, from the U-20 world track and field championships in Colombia in 2022, to the Paris Olympics two years later.

Lundman and Olympic veteran Evan Dunfee of Richmond placed 21st in the mixed marathon racewalk relay world championship Sunday in Antalya, Turkey, to grab the penultimate of the 22 qualifying spots into the Paris Olympic Games.

The Islander Lundman, who races for the UBC Thunderbirds, found something within herself as she willed her body across the finish line despite physical distress.

“It was literally a gutty effort,” she quipped, about vomiting twice on her final leg as she made her way to the line.

Dunfee and Lundman completed the 42.195-K race in a Canadian-record time of three hours, 07 minutes, 10 seconds. The mixed-relay racewalk marathon, which will replace the 50K racewalk in the Olympics, consists of one male racer and one female racer. The male starts with an 11.45K leg, followed by the female racing 10K before touching off to the male who races another 10K. The final leg consists of the female racer walking 10.745K to the finish line. Walking is a relative term. Hustling hard, grinding heel-to-toe without ever losing touch of pavement, is more like it. Lundman did just enough of that on the anchor leg to get herself and Dunfee to Paris for the event’s Olympic debut.

“I didn’t know what place we were in. I just wanted to make it to the finish line. It’s still sinking in that we qualified for the Olympics,” said Lundman, by phone, after returning home from Turkey late Monday night.

The new event is part of a growing trend in Olympic sports as the mixed-marathon racewalk relay joins mixed-gender events such as the triathlon relay, 4x400 mixed track relay, 4x100 mixed-medley swim relay, three mixed-team shooting events, mixed-team archery and mixed-team judo in the Summer Games and mixed-doubles curling, mixed-team snowboard-cross, ski jumping, ski aerials and short-track speed skating in the Winter Olympics.

Dunfee, 33, is no stranger to major Games as Canada’s most decorated walker and won bronze in the 50K racewalk in the 2019 world championships in Doha and 2020 Tokyo Olympics and gold in the 20K walk at the 2015 Toronto Pan Game Games and gold in the 10K racewalk at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games. He has also qualified to race in the 20K racewalk in the Paris Olympics.

It was thought that Lundman, 12 years his junior, was primed more for the 2028 Los ­Angeles Olympics. But she is now coached by Dunfee and got there four years earlier than anticipated and will be among the more than 40 Island or Island-based athletes expected to compete for Canada in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“Evan has so much knowledge and experience and has been so helpful, especially in regards to technique, and also helpful in guiding me through the early-career stages that he also went through and knows all about,” said Lundman.

The marathon mixed-relay racewalk makes its Olympic debut Aug. 7 with the start and finish line at the foot of the ­Eiffel Tower.

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