After the Paralympics in Rio last year, blind Ottawa runner Jason Dunkerley retired.
But less than a year later, the five-time Paralympian took home a silver medal in last week’s T11 1,500-metre event at the World Para Athletics Championships in London, England.
What happened, you ask?
“I did take a break after competing in Rio last year, but I love running and wanted to keep doing some training,” Dunkerley told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.
He ran enough to stay in shape. And then Athletics Canada came knocking last month, telling him he could qualify for the championships in Britain.
First challenge was finding a new guide
His main guide was injured, so Dunkerley relied on Ottawa’s Jérémie Venne, who jumped at the chance.
“I was reading my emails … and my jaw just dropped straight to the ground,” Venne told Ottawa Morning. “I was very, very happy that he asked me. I was also very surprised and very honoured that I was one of the people that he thought about.”
‘We kind of just hit a sweet spot where we were able to develop good rhythm together…’
– Jason Dunkerley
For just a few short weeks the two practiced running together, connected by a tether tied to their hands.
“You do need to be running in sync with the other person. It’s really important that you’re not fighting each other,” said Dunkerley.
But they were lucky; their stride lengths were already very similar.
“We kind of just hit a sweet spot where we were able to develop good rhythm together and it just really made it so much easier,” Dunkerley.
Extra challenge running with someone else
Being in sync is especially important when there are a lot of runners, Venne said. The race can get physical from the start.
Running alone in Ottawa, or during smaller, quieter competitions, Dunkerley can rely on the sounds of other people running to navigate around them. But with a noisy crowd and a lot of runners, he has to rely on his guide to give audible cues.
At the championships in London on Friday, he and Venne went from third place to first, until the Kenyan team passed them. They passed the finish line and mounted the podium to claim their silvers.
“It was just an amazing experience to share in,”…