RIO DE JANEIRO – Hirooki Arai, who was disqualified after crossing the line in third place in the men’s 50-km race walk at the Rio Games on Friday, ended up being awarded the bronze medal after the Japan team lodged a complaint.
Race officials had disqualified Arai for having obstructed Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who had finished fourth, following a complaint from the Canadian team, but reversed the decision after Japan’s counter-protest.
“I’m simply pleased,” said Arai. “I don’t think I did anything wrong. When I met (Dunfee after the decision was reversed) he said sorry and it ended with a hug.”
The 28-year-old Arai finished in a time of 3 hours, 41 minutes, 24 seconds — 26 seconds behind Slovak winner Matej Toth and 8 seconds behind silver medalist Jared Tallent of Australia. Dunfee ended up in fourth with a time of 3:41:38.
“It was a good race but I knew I was in a situation where I could not take my eye off the ball right until the very end. I could not stay on my feet right after I crossed the finish line (because of fatigue).”
Arai’s bronze was Japan’s 39th medal at the Rio Games, setting a new record high for the country at an Olympics. Japan won 38 medals in London four years ago.
Arai had moved into third place with 2 km left but dropped to fourth when he was overtaken by Dunfee. Arai moved back into the bronze medal spot but tangled with Dunfee in the process.
Arai said, “Being elbowed is not that uncommon (in walk racing). It has caused a bit of a stir but for the time being I am happy that I have secured a medal.”
Dunfee admitted that the right decision had been made in the end.
“It was left for me to decide whether to pursue this further with an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Following my return to the village and my viewing of the incident I made the decision not to appeal, as I believe the right decision stood,” he said.