Rob Massey, News Services
CALGARY — Adam Kunkel’s Olympic dream crashed to the Foothills Athletics Stadium’s track Friday at the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic track and field trials.
An injured left ankle gave out after the Canadian record holder and championship meet record holder from Paisley, Ont., cleared the third of 10 hurdles in the one-lap men’s 400-metre hurdles race. He picked himself up, struggled over the fourth hurdle and then had to call it quits.
“My training’s been going great, but a few weeks ago in a race I just took a bad step and cranked my ankle a bit,” he said after being comforted by family and friends. “I’ve been in shape and I’ve been moving well. It’s been a couple of weeks of just making sure not to aggravate that. It’s the nature of hurdles. I took a couple of funny steps and I cranked it again.
“It’s tough. You can floor it and try to deal with it hurting like hell, but when you’re not moving that well, it’s really tough.”
After dropping out of the race, Kunkel had to walk across the field in the centre of the track as the fans cheered for him.
“I’ve done that walk before,” he said. “It’s a bad walk. The crowd clapping on those long walks actually makes it worse. If everyone could avert their eyes and pretend I wasn’t there, it might be a little bit easier.”
Although Kunkel hadn’t hit any of Athletics Canada’s Olympic standards, he was just over half a second off the A standard of 49.50.
“It’s been a great year of training,” the 31-year-old said. “I’ve had great support at my club in Edmonton, my coach and a lot of great therapy so all the credit to them helping me have a real legitimate chance. This year I had two of my fastest openers ever so everything was in place.
“Unfortunately, especially with hurdles, sometimes just the tiniest bit of bad luck and you can really put a damper on things. Unfortunately, that seems to have been my problem in the last couple of weeks. Today just told me that I wasn’t really ready to be back on the track yet.”
However, Kunkel didn’t have a choice. He had to perform at his best here to secure a spot on the Olympic team.
“I couldn’t just let the Trials go by without seeing if I was ready to go,” he said. “I don’t think that I did too much more damage here. I just think I tried to get on it too early too hard but I had to. You don’t let opportunities like Olympic trials pass you by. Maybe in a couple more weeks I’ll be able to get back to training and do some racing in August. That’s what I’m hoping to be able to do.”
Things didn’t get any better for Kunkel in the change area when he found he was short a sock.
“After all this, I lose a sock,” he said. “I’m lucky I packed an extra.”
Kunkel will decide if he can chase a berth at the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“We’ll see,” Kunkel said. “I’m starting out full-time school (at York University) but I’ve had a great year of training. I really feel that I was getting back toward my best conditions and definitely in A standard shape.”
Known as Uncle Kunkel to a lot of the younger competitors, he isn’t likely to watch Saturday’s final. And he’ll keep focusing on the positives of his performances.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of disappointment in my career and I’ve really learned to enjoy the good days as they come,” Kunkel said. “I’ve had a lot of good days in training this year and a couple of great races. I just needed a few more weeks of good luck and you don’t always get them.”