After two days of near misses at the Gangneung Oval, Canadian speed skaters finally stepped on the podium at the World Single Distances Championships on Saturday, winning two medals.
Ivanie Blondin started the day with bronze in the women’s 5000m for her first world championship medal in a traditional distance race. Paired against German veteran Claudia Pechstein in the second last pairing, Blondin completed the 12 and a half laps in 6 minutes 57.14 seconds, putting her just 0.13 ahead of Russian Anna Yurakova. The 44-year-old Pechstein was more than three seconds faster, crossing the line in 6:53.93 to secure her 15th career world championship medal in the 5000m. They then watched the final pairing, which featured Czech Martina Sablikova who had won the 5000m every year dating back to 2007. The two-time reigning Olympic champion got the victory once again in 6:52.38.
This is Canada’s first world championship medal in the 5000m since 2009 when Clara Hughes and Kristina Groves won silver and bronze. And Blondin’s best event is still to come. She goes into Sunday’s mass start as the defending world champion after having won silver in 2015. Blondin started the world championships on Thursday with a fourth place finish in the 3000m.
In the men’s 1000m, Vincent De Haître captured the silver for his first career world championship medal. Skating in the second last pairing, De Haitre had just watched two Dutch skaters,Kjeld Nuis (1:08.26) and Kai Verbij (1:08.78) go to the top of the leaderboard. But De Haitre found room between them, completing the two and a half laps in 1:08.54. That time held up through the final pairing, which included two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis of the United States.
De Haître has two career World Cup medals in the distance, including a gold in Astana in December. This is Canada’s first world championship medal in the 1000m since Denny Morrison won silver in 2009.
After winning silver last year, Ted-Jan Bloemen was just pushed off the podium in the men’s 10,000m, finishing less than two seconds behind bronze medallist Patrick Beckert of Germany while Dutch skaters Sven Kramer and Jorrit Bergsma won gold and silver. On Thursday Bloemen had finished fifth in the men’s 5000m and then joined with Jordan Belchos and Benjamin Donnelly for a fourth place finish in the team pursuit, missing the podium by eight one hundredths (0.08) of a second.
There had also been solid Canadian performances in the women’s 500m in which Heather McLean and Marsha Hudey had placed fifth and sixth.
The World Single Distances Championships conclude on Sunday with the mass starts and the 1500m for both men and women. The event is doubling as the official test event of the Olympic venue for PyeongChang 2018.