Guide Sean Young helps Jon Dunkerley to his feet after the pair finished third in their heat and eighth overall with a time of 55.27 seconds in the 2012 Paralympic Games T11 men’s 400 m at Olympic Stadium in London. Photo: Ian Ewing
By Dan Plouffe
LONDON – Jon Dunkerley competed in the final track event of the evening on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Olympic Stadium in London, but the Ottawa Lions sprinter didn’t quite save the best for last in his lone individual event at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Competing in the T11 men’s 400 metres for athletes with visual impairments alongside guide Sean Young, Dunkerley didn’t quite put in the performance he sought, placing third in his heat in 55.27 seconds to miss the four-man final and finish eighth overall.
“The first 50 was good, but then I just fell apart on the home (stretch),” said Dunkerley, who’d set his 54.70 personal-best time earlier this season. “You know, I just ran out of gas going home. It was as simple as that.”
The 400 m distance has traditionally been the Billings resident’s focus, but leading up to the Paralympics, he and Young changed their training to make themselves the best possible 100 m runners to support the Canadian 4x100 m relay team that wound up coming close up just short of the four-country final earlier in the Games.
“(In the relay), we ran 11.0, which is a huge PB for us. It was probably the fastest leg or close to the fastest leg. We’re not expected to do that,” Young noted. “I think we should have done the 100 while we’re here.”
Jon & Sean like brothers
If you knew Jon Dunkerley had a brother but didn’t know who it was, the natural guess would probably be Young, not necessarily Jason Dunkerley, who won a pair of medals in T11 distance events. Dunkerley and Young are simply a perfect match in their mutual dedication, approach to running, and fun-loving personalities.
And on a difficult day when their years of preparation didn’t quite show in their performance, their partnership emerged stronger than ever.
“We worked Jon hard. At our training facility, he was on his back, foam coming out of his mouth,” Young described. “We gave everything training up to this point and I’m really proud to say that he’s my teammate.”
Dunkerley echoed his long-time partner’s sentiments immediately: “Thanks man. Likewise.”
Canadian team leaders
Competing at their second Paralympics together, Dunkerley and Young were a veteran presence for the team of young Canadian sprinters.
“We’re kind of leaders this time, whereas last time we were sort of learning,” highlighted Stittsville’s Young. “I think we helped some guys here really learn to be focused and execute their races.”
Young hinted that it was likely the last Paralympics he would attend as a guide runner, but the operator of the Canadian Strength Institute could return in a different role, having taken on some coaching responsibilities at these Games, working with Lions wheelchair racer Curtis Thom.
Young sees no reason why his 32-year-old partner wouldn’t return to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro as an athlete, he added, and you can bet that their friendship will continue even if they aren’t running side-by-side. They’ve grown so close that they often finish each other’s sentences.
“It was a totally different environment for these (younger) guys,” Young continued. “But for us, we knew what to expect. You know, we’re not idiots in there flabbergasted by all the free food.”
“Yeah, but now we are though,” Dunkerley cracked, as the bright pair wrapped up their Paralympics with an appropriate lasting image – Jon and Sean laughing together.