By Stuart Miller-Davis
Ottawa’s national team speedskaters Isabelle Wiedemann and Ivanie Blondin recently polished off their shortened season with success, despite competitions being held in an unfamiliar fashion.
Blondin was the lone individual medallist of the pair at the World Championships held from Feb. 10-13. She placed 2nd in the mass start event. Weidemann finished 5th in the 3000 metre and 4th in the 5000m.
The World Championships were the final event of the International Skating Union’s long-track season, which included just two World Cups. The season was held in its entirety in the same bubble in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.
“It was a very unique environment,” Wiedemann told the Sports Pages in an email. “With lots of training, school and back-to-back weekends of competition, the weeks we spent in the Netherlands went super fast. It was not nearly as boring as I thought it would be.”
Wiedemann had told the Sports Pages in December that she intended to stay in Canada and extend her training for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but after discussions with Team Canada, she decided she would make the trip to the bubble.
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“Things changed for me when the team really started talking about the logistics that were involved with the bubble. It was much more closed off than I initially thought and seemed considerably safer than what I had imagined,” Weidemann said.
“I also came to the decision that there were going to be invaluable lessons that could be learned about tactics, race tapering, (and) training strategies.”
Despite only barely missing medals in both of her individual races, Weidemann said she had “mixed feelings” about her performances at the World Championships.
“I’m a little disappointed my individual races were not closer to the podium. I’m extremely grateful to have had the chance to compete and I am also really happy to be taking away some invaluable information. I’m proud of the work the team and I did, despite the countless obstacles we faced, to get us there.”
The Gloucester Concordes alumni joined forces with Chicoutimi-native Valérie Maltais to place 2nd in the women’s team pursuit at the championships. At the previous World Cup, about two weeks earlier, the trio won gold, setting a track record with their official time of 2:54.64.
“Winning gold with my teammates was a total surprise,” Wiedemann said. “We hadn’t had the opportunity to skate together very often and we had no real idea how we would fare against other countries. We were shocked and beyond ecstatic.”
Wiedemann returned from the Netherlands after the bubble to quarantine in Canada and begin preparing to train for the Olympics.
“My coaches, support staff and I are currently working on plans for the summer and next season,” she said. “Nothing is finalized yet, but I’m sure it will be full of biking, running and (fingers crossed) long-track speedskating at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.”
The Olympic Oval in Calgary had been closed since Sept. 5 due to a mechanical issue. It will be out of commission until May, according to a press release from Jan. 18. The surrounding training facility reopened on Feb. 8 for one-on-one dryland training between athletes and coaches.
Weidemann and Blondin are both on track to qualify for the Beijing Games, which would be their second and third appearances. Both would be medal-hopefuls at the Games.