Accident, knee surgery doesn’t slow down Hamilton runner Dunkerley

Hamilton’s Jason Dunkerley, who earlier this week won the men’s 1,500 metre event for visually impaired athletes, continues to impress at the World Track and Field Championships for Athletes with a Disability.

Dunkerley, clocked the fastest time in the semifinal of the 800m chase to advance to the finals in Assen, The Netherlands. That he is winning might surprise some, that he is even racing would surprise almost everyone. Winning the 1,500 in 4:22.18, with his guide Greg Dailey keeping him patient and clear of trouble in a tactical race, Dunkerley told the world he is back.

Last November, Dunkerley was hit by a car while running with a friend in Ottawa. He suffered a hairline fracture to his fibula bone and tore ligaments in a knee. Last May he underwent arthroscopic surgery for the knee. “It feels fantastic to get the win,” said Dunkerley, 29, the Paralympic Games silver medallist in 2004.

Dailey wasn’t surprised with the win. “We came here with the objective to win a medal,” said Dailey. “But his recent training and his performance in the heats showed there was a realistic chance he could win the race.”

And that’s what they did.

“A lot of guys were getting boxed in but we managed to stay away from that. We waited until the last 300 metres before making our move. This was the kind of race we were hoping for,” said Dunkerley.

Last year in August, the Hamilton runner won a gold medal at the European Paralympic track and field championships, taking the 1,500m event in 4:12.28, 10 seconds faster than his winning time Thursday.

Picking up from his 1,500m gold medal win on Thursday, Dunkerley ran his semifinal 800m event in 2:06.83. Canada picked up a gold medal Thursday when Chantal Petitclerc of Montreal won the women’s 200-metre wheelchair race for paraplegics in a meet record time.

The win gave capped a four-medal performance for Canada Thursday at the championships.

Dean Bergeron of Quebec City, Brent Lakatos of Dorval, Que., and Robert Hughes of Brampton, Ont., each added a bronze. After five days of competition Canada has 12 medals: three gold, four silver and five bronze.

In the women’s 200, Petitclerc notched her third medal of the competition edging American Tatiana McFadden at the finish. Petitclerc’s time was a meet record 29.07 seconds. Tracey Ferguson of Toronto was eighth.

“It was a super close race and I stayed in control,” said Petitclerc, second in the 100 and 800 earlier this week. “I really focused on having a strong technical race with a solid start and fast top speed. I can tell you I was eager for the finish near the end. My arms were feeling pretty heavy.”

In the men’s 100 wheelchair race for quadriplegics, Bergeron overcame some bad luck to get the bronze medal in 18.20 seconds. In the warm-up, Bergeron’s chair was damaged after he was bumped by another competitor from behind. Canadian team mechanics scrambled to get his wheelchair repaired on time for the start.

“It completely broke my focus for the race,” said Bergeron, also third in the 400 earlier this week. “It’s a bit disappointing because this was an important race for me. I was going in as the top qualifier. I didn’t get as good a start as in the semi and that cost me at least one placing. I was pleased though with my finish and that gives me confidence for the 200 later this week.”

Later Thursday, Bergeron’s misfortunes continued as he blew a tire in the 5,000-metre race and didn’t finish. Hughes earned his medal in the men’s shotput final for cerebral palsy athletes with an 8.19 metre toss while Lakatos took third in the T53 classification 100-metre wheelchair race clocking 15.25 seconds.

Other Canadian final results were: France Gagné of Quebec City fourth in the men’s discus for visually impaired; Jacques Martin of Sherbrooke, Que., fifth in the men’s wheelchair discus; Stefanie Reid of Thornhill, Ont., sixth in the women’s 200 for amputees; and Kyle Pettey of Campbellford, Ont., and Shane Risto of Niagara Falls, Ont., sixth and seventh in the men’s shotput for cerebral palsy.

In the women’s 1,500 wheelchair semifinal, Diane Roy of Sherbrooke qualified second in her heat to advance to Friday’s final while Ferguson and Keira-Lyn Frie of Saskatoon were eliminated.

In the men’s 800 wheelchair race for paraplegics heats, Josh Cassidy of Port Elgin, Ont., and James Baker of Ottawa advanced to the semis while Carl Marquis of Sherbrooke was eliminated.

Eliminated in semifinal races were Dustin Walsh of Coquitlam, B.C., in the men’s 200 for visually impaired and Megan Muscat of St. Thomas, Ont., in the 200 for cerebral palsy.