Three days before he competes in the 20-kilometre race walk at the Canadian track and field nationals in Calgary, Inaki Gomez, a 24-year-old graduate of Vancouver College and UBC is focused and self-assured.
A top-three finish secures his place on the Olympic team and entry to the London Summer Games. He finished second at nationals for two consecutive years.
“I’m very excited. Everyone is feeling excited and come Sunday when they announce the team, we’ll all be kind of relieved and excited to see what’s next,” he said Thursday morning from Calgary.
On March 30 at the international race walk challenge in China, Gomez covered 20 kilometres in one hour, 21 minutes and five seconds.
The time was a personal best and he finished eighth. Striding at a 4:03-minute-per-kilometre pace, he met the Olympic A-plus standard. (To compare, Canadian Olympian marathoner Reid Coolsaet won the 21km Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon last weekend in 1:03.15 and he was running.)
Then in mid-May, Gomez raced in the bi-annual World Race Walking Cup, held in Saransk, Russia, which he described as "the Mecca of Race Walk," and came 14th in the 20km event, finishing in 1:21.58.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “The race walkers are sort of famous there. The race had over 30,000 spectators around a two-kilometre loop, which was just unreal. I’ve never experienced that in my life.”
Gomez trains with Gerry Dragomir of Racewalk West alongside a group of UBC athletes that includes Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful Evan Dunfee of Richmond. They’re often on the seawall, logging 80 to 120 km each week—and passing joggers as they go.
“In Vancouver we’re blessed to have so many paths around the city and the seawall is a perfect location and atmosphere,” he said.
“In Vancouver, people see us on the seawall and start recognizing who we are. Once they figure out that we’re walking 20km in an hour, 20 minutes, they’re like, “Wow—that’s faster than I can run.”