By Elio Elia
A fine line separates the ordinary from the extraordinary and based on her achievements last year, Ottawa speedskater Ivanie Blondin very much qualifies as the latter. Her athletics career has taken twists, particularly with her switching competitive disciplines, and dips, including a disappointing performance at the most recent Olympic Games, but in 2019 she was at the top of her game.
To cap her year, she was bestowed the honour of the city’s top female athlete by the Ottawa Sports Awards.
Blondin, who is turning 30 in April, was born in Ottawa and started skating at as young as 2 years old. The adrenaline of going fast on skates led her to joining short track speedskating at 14 years old, before she switched to her current specialty of long track at 20. Cut to a decade later, and Blondin has become a perennial medal threat on the World Cup circuit.
It has not been all good moments for Blondin, as in athletics there must be lows to match the highs. For Blondin, a valley in her career was the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. She had targeted a gold medal and was an expected medal threat in multiple races. She disappointedly did not land on a podium – finishing 5th and 6th in the 3k and 5k races.
What followed for Blondin was a year for mental recovery. She previously told the Sportspage she had been battling with depression after her disappointing Olympics performance. She expressed in the past that she felt pre-existing feelings of inadequacy contributed to her below-par performances.
In a previous article, Blondin described how she felt: “That was maybe my downfall of the season. I think I maybe wasn’t performing as I should have because of maybe my mental state, not because I wasn’t strong enough to do so, but because mentally I just wasn’t there.”
Yet it was by pushing forward that Blondin ascended to her most impressive level of skating in her career. She ended 2019 by winning five gold medals and setting three track records throughout the season’s World Cup speedskating events. She also won a gold medal at last year’s Canadian Championships, where she set a personal best time.
With 2020 now underway, she shows no signs of slowing down. At the World Single Distance Championships in Salt Lake City in February she won a gold medal in the mass start event. She has the opportunity to finish the best season of her career on a high note at the World Cup speed skating finale in the Netherlands on the first weekend of March.
Tim Nedow was named Ottawa’s Male Athlete of the Year at the Sports Awards’ banquet at the end of January, joining Blondin as the evening’s other top honouree.
Other major winners included the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team, who won Female Team of the Year. They won a bronze medal at the OUA championships and were later crowned FISU World Cup Champions. They had an undefeated regular season as well. Gee-Gees women’s rugby coach Jen Boyd was named Female Coach of the Year, becoming one of just three people to win one of the event’s major ‘of the year’ awards a total of six times.
The Ottawa Jr. Senators won Male Team of the Year, in recognition of their second-consecutive banner season in the Central Canada Hockey League. They also made it to the national semifinals before losing to the eventual national champions. Jr. Sens head coach Martin Dagenais was also awarded Male Coach of the Year. Dagenais was also a silver medal-winning coach of Team Canada East in the 2019 World Junior A Challenge tournament.