Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dunn Looking for Another Pan Am Medal

The Pan American Games are underway and Team USA has already earned two gold medals -- Sara Slattery and Ed Moran won the 10,000 and 5000 meters yesterday, respectively.

Four Minnesota athletes are wearing the red, white, and blue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week: 50K racewalker Philip Dunn (pictured), 5000 meter runner Cack Ferrell, marathoner Chris Lundstrom, and triple jumper Shani Marks.

We recently traded e-mail with Dunn, a Carleton College graduate, about the Pan Am Games. Dunn won a bronze medal in the 50K walk at the 1999 Pan Ams in Winnipeg and is looking for further success when he competes Saturday.

DtB: Congrats on making the Pan Ams team. Are you looking forward to competing in those games again after the success you had in them 8 years ago?

Dunn: Absolutely. The Pan Am Games have a special place in my heart because of the success I had eight years ago in Winnipeg. I don't have many photos or posters from races up around the house, but I do have one from the awards ceremony at the 1999 Pan Ams. It's actually a photo of me up on the Jumbo-tron at the stadium. I'm waving to the crowd as my name is announced. That doesn't happen very often, so it was pretty special. The best thing about the photo, though, is that it was taken by my friend Jefferson Perez, 1996 Olympic gold medalist and 2003 & 2005 World Champion from Ecuador and he signed it, "Esta medalla la primera de muchas" (This medal the first of many!)

I've been to the Pan Ams twice before and one of the best things about them is that they are that rare combination of high-level competition and low-key congeniality. Most of the events are very competitive and each athlete strives to do his/her best, but the field sizes are smaller and we compete against each other often enough that it has the feel of a much smaller meet.

DtB: Describe how that 1999 race played out?

Dunn: The race was in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the end of July so it was hot and humid. There were probably only ten guys in the race with the two favorites from Mexico: Joel Sanchez and Carlos Mercenario. Canadian Tim Berrett was also likely to be a strong threat but there was a rumor he was using the race as a World Champs tune-up and might drop out at 35km. Other contenders included Hector Moreno from Colombia and a strong Cuban walker. My goal was to be cautious early because of the heat and move up throughout the race. The 50km often goes to the guy who can keep moving at the same pace when attrition takes out a lot of guys late in the race.

At the halfway mark, I was struggling a bit back in sixth place but I just kept moving along. I was locked in a battle with the Colombian and Cuban with the Mexicans and Canadian out in front of me. At 32km, the race blew open. The two Mexicans surged and pulled away from Berrett who ended up dropping out at 35km. Around that same time, I was able to drop the rest of the field and move into third where I stayed until the finish. I ended up throwing up near the finish and spent an hour or two in the medical tent with a couple IVs to rehydrate.

Meanwhile, there was some post-race controversy about one of the Mexicans receiving coaching from the sidelines (a new rule that had never previously been enforced) and he was temporarily disqualified moving me up into the silver medal position. He was reinstated by the time I left the medical tent. I've had much better races and been in better shape, but it was great to get a medal at a big international race.

DtB: What's your status for the World Championships this year?

Dunn: Despite finishing second at Nationals, I haven't been able to get the 'A' or 'B' standard this past year, so I won't be able to race in Osaka at Worlds. The U.S. is only sending one guy in the 50km and rumor has it he plans to pace a training partner from Norway before dropping out at 30km.

DtB: We understand congratulations are in order with the recent birth of your son. Has he changed things for you as an athlete already?

Dunn: Oh yeah! Our little bundle of sleeping, eating and pooping is keeping us busy already. My wife is wonderful and has been letting me get some rest during the night, but it's still hard to get the kind of sleep I need to prepare for a major race. In order to stay injury-free and healthy enough to train at a high level, I need every bit of recovery I can get. My respect for elite athletes who have kids and careers has gone way up in the past week.

Photo courtesy of USA Track & Field.

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