Canadian long track speed skaters won three more medals at the season-opening World Cup stop in Heerenveen, Netherlands on Saturday.
Canada’s first gold of the 2017-18 ISU Speed Skating World Cup circuit came courtesy of Laurent Dubreuil in an extremely tight men’s 500m. Vincent De Haître claimed 1500m silver while Ivanie Blondin added silver of her own in the mass start.
In the hotbed of long track speed skating, Dubreuil finished ahead of four Dutch skaters, who took places two through five. Just six one-hundredths (0.06) of a second separated first from fourth.
Skating in the second of 10 pairs, Dubreuil laid down a time of 34.80 seconds. He then watched as Jan Smeekens, the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medallist, came closest to his time while racing in the fifth pair. Smeekens finished in 34.84. Just a hundredth of a second behind him was Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Ronald Mulder.
This is the first individual World Cup victory for Dubreuil, who won 500m bronze at the 2015 World Single Distances Championships, the same year he finished second in the overall World Cup standings for the distance. Prior to Saturday, Dubreuil had two silvers and four bronzes in his collection of 500m World Cup medals.
With Olympic qualifying on the line, Dubreuil is hoping for a resurgence this season after not standing on a World Cup podium at all last season in an individual event.
The silver is De Haître’s first career World Cup medal in the 1500m, adding to the three he has won in the 1000m in which he is the reigning world silver medallist. He finished fourth in the 1500m at the 2017 World Single Distances Championships.
Skating in the sixth of 10 pairs on Saturday, De Haître posted a time of 1:45.87. That stood up until the ninth pairing when Russian Denis Yuskov finished in 1:44.42. Dutchman Thomas Krol took the bronze, finishing just 0.05 behind De Haître.
After being part of the team pursuit bronze on Friday, Blondin bided her time in the middle of the pack early in the women’s mass start final. On the second sprint lap midway through the race, teammate Keri Morrison earned three points for crossing the finish line in second place, which ranked her in seventh place at the end.
Meanwhile Blondin gradually moved herself closer to the front and sat in fourth place with four laps to go. She kept herself amongst the leaders until making her move on the bell lap. She held the lead for most of the final 400m before being edged out at the line by Japan’s Ayano Sato, who barely got the toe of her blade across first.
Competition concludes in Heerenveen on Sunday with the 1000m, the women’s 3000m and the men’s 5000m as well as the non-Olympic team sprint races. The World Cup circuit heads to Stavanger, Norway next weekend where the quest for Olympic qualification points will continue.