Former Thunderbird and 2020 Tokyo Olympics 50km walk bronze medalist Evan Dunfee is running for Richmond City Council in the October municipal elections.
“It’s something that has been in the back of my mind for a really long time,” Dunfee said.
Born and raised in Richmond, Dunfee has spent hours walking the streets of his hometown, witnessing and reflecting on the changes in the city.
Dunfee spent many of his 40km training walks discussing the issues of the city with his longtime coach and mentor Gerry Dragomir. These discussions helped him form the basis for his opinion on local politics.
It was when the pandemic hit that Dunfee got more interested in politics. Due to the pandemic, council meetings started to be accessible to the public on YouTube. He started to follow along with the meetings and dive into the city’s staff and community reports.
“I just found it really exciting, which is a weird thing to say,” Dunfee said. “I think it also comes from a place of [belief] in my city. I believe that Richmond has incredible potential. I think we are steering a little bit away from it right now. And I want to help put us back on the right path towards our potential.”
Dunfee is running as an independent and if elected, hopes to work towards housing affordability, climate resiliency and active transportation.
From athletics to local politics
Dunfee values the skills he learned while racewalking and he hopes to apply them at the council table.
“I had a vision 20+ years ago to win the Olympic medal one day and I learned how to be very determined and committed towards that and set goals for myself and really chase that down,” Dunfee said.
Dunfee said he learned all about teamwork, sportsmanship and integrity throughout his athletic career. Being team captain on several occasions for Team Canada has also taught him what it takes to be a leader.
“I’m not good at pumping my own tires, but I am internationally recognized for my integrity,” Dunfee said.
At the Rio 2016 Olympics, Dunfee was bumped by Japan’s Jirooki Arai in the last lap of the 50km walk to finish in fourth place. Team Canada successfully challenged, but Dunfee was moved back down to fourth after the Japanese launched a counter-protest. Despite the heartbreaking finish at the games, Dunfee showed great sportsmanship and earned bronze at his next Olympics in 2020.
In August 2022, Dunfee continued to push his excellence in his sport at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK. Dunfee broke his own 10,000m national record as well as the Commonwealth Games record — finishing first with 38 minutes, 36.37 seconds.
Not the end of his racewalking era
Running for a spot at the council table does not mean Dunfee is retiring from his sport. Although Dunfee admits that training may be different since he “wouldn’t be gallivanting on training camps and all the different races,” he looks forward to preparing for Paris 2024.
“Our world championships and the next Olympics happen to fall in a council summer break … so [I] certainly would still be able to do the training and the big races every year,” Dunfee said.
His motivation behind the decision to run for City Council is Councillor Michael Wolfe, who is also a full-time high school science teacher. “I figured, if he can do that, then racewalking is easy,” Dunfee laughed.
Reflecting back on training camps and his career so far, Dunfee said all the memories and friendships he made along the way have inspired him to continue this new adventure in local politics.
“I look at my closest teammates who have retired and one of them is now a lawyer in Vancouver and the other one’s doing his PhD at Harvard. They’ve accomplished so much by taking what they’ve learned in sport and applying it into their outside life, if you want to call it that,” Dunfee said. “I look to them as huge motivations and inspiration for what I might be able to do in my community going forward.”