They had to wait until the end of the night to receive their silver medals (delayed by confusion over who would accept the bronze medals since the Japanese runner had two guides), but Jason Dunkerley (left) and Josh Karanja were just as pleased to win their second medals of the London 2012 Paralympics. Photo: Ian Ewing
By Dan Plouffe
Ottawa’s Jason Dunkerley set his second personal-best in a week on Friday night in London, and at age 35 – for the first time in his career that spans four Paralympics – won a second medal at the same Games.
On the heels of Monday’s bronze medal performance in the 1,500 m – the event he’d won his previous medals in – Dunkerley and guide runner Josh Karanja ran a consistent race from start to finish in the T11 men’s 5,000 m for athletes with visual impairments, leading for much of the race and setting a pace they knew few in the world could match.
The Ottawa Lions pair wound up in second place in a time of 15:34.07 – a new personal record by nearly four seconds that was 12 seconds behind Chileans Cristian Valenzuela and guide Cristopher Guajardo, and ahead of the rest of the field by over 20 seconds.
“It’s tough. We were leading for a long way, so it kind of feels like it’s been taken away from you, but we had a plan and we executed it,” Dunkerley said. “I’m really happy. We ran hard, PBed.”
The 5,000 m is a new pursuit for Dunkerley. The thought of winning a silver medal in the discipline would never have occurred to him coming out of the last Paralympics in 2008, or even the last world championships before he joined up with Karanja and coach Ian Clark.
“Even a year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined this,” Dunkerley highlighted, explaining that he was nonetheless well setup to tackle the 5k. “As you get older, the speed work gets harder and you may lose a step. But the endurance is there from all your years of training.”
Going out with two medals could have been the perfect way to cap a career for the Northern Ireland-born athlete who enjoyed competing in front of family close to his birthplace, but talk of retirement was nowhere on his mind.
“I’m thinking 2013 for now. We’re going to gear up for worlds next year and see how that goes and then re-evaluate,” Dunkerley said, stopping short of committing to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. “We’re making big progress, especially in the 5k, and I think there’s a lot more to come.”
There was another first in Dunkerley’s career at these Games – it was the first his guide also received a medal.
“It’s been a missing part of our sport. It’s long overdue. I’m just so thrilled for Josh,” he smiled. “Josh is a pretty understated guy, but the other night when we won our bronze, that was so amazing to see him as excited as he was.
“I know how much pride he takes in what we’re doing and how much pride he takes in seeing us improve. I’m just so happy to share it with him.”
Karanja, who was born in Kenya and shared the same last name as the Kenyan pair who placed fourth, was especially proud that they executed their plan of running 74-second laps to perfection.
“It didn’t matter who was behind us or in front of us, we were going to hit our times and that’s what we did,” recounted the Nepean High School grad. “We gave it our best shot. It’s definitely bittersweet, but it’s definitely also awesome to get back up there (on the podium).
“We did our best.”
Pick up the Ottawa Sportspage next week for more coverage.