(Photo by Rafal Oleksiewicz/Speed Skating Canada)
(Photo by Rafal Oleksiewicz/Speed Skating Canada)

Gold medal for women’s team pursuit highlights seven medals haul at speed skating worlds

Two-time Olympic medallist Ted-Jan Bloemen added another achievement to his long list at the ISU World Speed Skating Championship in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

Bloemen posted a time of 13:01.84 in the 25-lap, 10,000m race. He beat out Dutch skater Patrick Roest by just over a second to claim bronze.

Despite a fractured 2022-23 season that saw him start just three races due to the birth of his son, the 36-year-old found a way on Sunday. It’s the third time Bloemen has won a world championship medal in the 10,000m event, having claimed silver in 2016 and 2020.

Italian skater David Ghiotto claimed gold with a personal best time, while hometown skater Jorrit Bergsma finished the podium with silver.

Canadian Graeme Fish finished fifth in the 10,000m race.

In the other races Sunday, Canadian skaters came painfully close to a podium position. In the women’s 1500m, Ivanie Blondin placed fourth, missing the podium by 0.32 seconds, and in the women’s 5,000m, Isabelle Weidemann also finished fourth.

Three-medal day on Friday for Team Canada

It was a three-medal day for Team Canada at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands on Friday.

The women’s team pursuit squad took the world title under unusual circumstances, while silver medals were secured by the men’s team pursuit and by Laurent Dubreuil in the men’s 500m.

Skating in the third of four pairings, Valérie Maltais, Ivanie Blondin, and Isabelle Weidemann completed the six laps of the women’s team pursuit in 2:54.58, which put them into first place by close to six seconds after a very clean and in sync effort.

But the last pairing between the Netherlands and Japan was also very quick. When they finished, the Dutch appeared to have won the world title by more than a second over the Canadians while the Japanese came through for third in 2:57.30.

Before the results were designated as official, however, the Dutch team was disqualified, devastating their home fans at the Thialf oval. The reason appeared to be equipment-related. For safety, all skaters competing in team pursuits are required to wear cut-proof socks which fully cover their skin. One of the Dutch skaters was deemed to have not met that standard. Her sock reportedly slid out of position during the race, exposing her ankle.

The disqualification bumped the Canadian trio up to the gold medal, while Japan took silver, and the United States claimed bronze. Maltais, Blondin, and Weidemann — who memorably won Olympic gold in the team pursuit at Beijing 2022 — won all three World Cup events this season.

Next up was the men’s team pursuit. Perhaps inspired by the impressive performance of their teammates, Connor Howe, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu, and Hayden Mayeur gave a full-out effort for their eight laps around the oval. On the bell lap, they managed to avoid what would have been a catastrophic fall as fatigue set in. They crossed the line in 3:38.43 which put them into first place with two teams to go.

One of those teams was the Netherlands, who made sure that all of their men had their ankles properly covered before heading to the start line. The Dutch couldn’t quite keep pace with the Canadian time until they powered through their last lap and finished a mere 0.17 of a second faster to take the gold medal. Norway claimed the bronze in 3:40.93.

The silver for the Howe, Gélinas-Beaulieu, and Mayeur matched their best result from this season’s World Cup circuit. They finished second in Calgary in December.

It was then time for the sprinters to take the spotlight. Laurent Dubreuil came in as the reigning world champion in the men’s 500m. Skating in the penultimate pairing, he powered out of the start. But both he and Wataru Morishige of Japan looked like they were tying up a little as they headed toward the finish. On the outer lane, Dubreuil came from behind out of the last corner to edge out Morishige by just 0.02 of a second. His time of 34.46 put the Canadian in first place for the moment.

But then Dubreuil could do nothing but watch as American Jordan Stolz came within 0.03 of the track record. The 18-year-old blazed to the gold medal in 34.10 seconds — an astonishing time on sea-level ice. Ever the respectful competitor, Dubreuil applauded the newest star on the speed skating scene as Stolz passed by after becoming the youngest winner ever at the World Single Distances Championships.

Friday’s medals follow world titles won on Thursday in the women’s and men’s team sprint events, which are not part of the Olympic program. Blondin joined with Brooklyn McDougall and Carolina Hiller to win gold in the women’s race by 0.29 of a second over the United States. Dubreuil, Gélinas-Beaulieu, and Christopher Fiola won the men’s race by 0.41 of a second over the Netherlands. That was Canada’s first world championship medal in the men’s team sprint.

Ivanie Blondin captures silver in the mass start

Ivanie Blondin continued her success on Saturday earning the silver medal in the women’s mass start in the Netherlands. Her final time of 8:34:19 landed her on the second position on the podium between Marijke Groenewoud and Irene Schouten of the Netherlands respectively.

Blondin’s teammate, Maltais finished eighth in the event.