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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Speed skaters Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin off to flying start in Olympic season

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

WEEKEND WRAP: Isabelle Weidemann and Ivanie Blondin are off to blazing starts on the icy road to their 2021-22 World Cup seasons, world championships and the all-important Beijing Winter Olympic Games in February.

During last week’s Canadian long-track speed skating championships, the two well-established Ottawa oval skaters were dominant among women’s skaters, each winning three medals, including two national titles apiece.

And Weidemann even threw in a Canadian record performance for good measure.

The Canadian championships served as Speed Skating Canada’s selection meet for its World Cup and NextGen teams for this season.

Weidemann, an endurance specialist, kicked off the nationals by winning the 3,000- and 5,000-metre races on back-to-back days.

In the 3,000 metres, Weidemann posted an impressive three-second victory with a time of six minutes, 56.89 seconds. Team pursuit partners Blondin and Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., were second and third respectively in 3:59.99 and 4:01.23.

“I’m really excited to be Canadian champion,” Weidemann said following her victory. “It was a good race and that makes me stoked for the rest of the season.


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“I’ve gained a lot of experience on the World Cup circuit and am now better at performing under pressure. I’m looking forward to bringing what I’ve learned to the upcoming Olympic Games.”

A day later, Weidemann was one of only two racers in the women’s 5,000 metres, but she concentrated on the technical aspects of her mini-marathon as she raced junior-aged Laura Hall of Salmon Arm, B.C.

At the end of 12.5 laps on the 400-metre oval in Calgary, Weidemann finished in 6:46.81, which pared 0.53 seconds off her own national record. Weidemann skated her previous best five-kilometre time of 6:47.34 in 2019.

“I focused on myself a lot more in the first few laps to make sure that I was being efficient and listening to my technical cues,” she said. “The 5,000 metres definitely gets hard, when you start to suffer a little bit.

“But’s it’s awesome to skate at home in front of my family and I’m happy with my consistency so far this season.”

Weidemann’s bid for a third national title fell one place shy in the women’s 1,500 metres, which was won by a relieved Blondin, who posted the unmatched time of 1:54.64.

Weidemann was runner-up in 1:55.57, while Maltais claimed third place in 1:55.80.

“The past few weeks have been a bit of a mental struggle for me, so I’m really happy and grateful that it went the way it did,” said Blondin, who was named Speed Skating Canada’s female long-track athlete of the year for 2020-21. It was the sixth time she had earned that award.

“It reassures me that even if I’m not feeling 100 per cent mentally, I can still push through it and put out good performances. That’s something to keep in mind for the future and one of the many positives that came out of today.”

Blondin capped the five-day national championships by winning the mass start race. She also had a fourth-place finish in the 1,000 metres in 1:15.63.

“I just went out there and had fun without too much stress on my shoulders and it was a great result,” Blondin explained. “Even though I was pre-qualified for World Cup races in the mass start, it was important that I race today to help increase the pace and provide my teammates with a more realistic experience of what this event looks like at a World Cup.

“As the mass start evolves, we need to work together as a team to get on the podium on the international stage.”

Vincent De Haître of Cumberland secured one medal in his two men’s races as he took silver in the 1,000 metres in 1:08.02. The Tokyo Summer Olympic track cyclist, who continues his transition to speed skating training and competitions, also was seventh in the 1,500 metres in 1:45.78.

“Overall, given my circumstances and that it’s only week eight of my comeback, I think the race was a big success,” De Haître said about his 1,000-metre effort. “I have things to work on and know there’s a faster time in me, so I look forward to showing what I can do later this year.

“I’m ahead of all of the benchmarks that my coaches and physiotherapists have set for me, so I’ve been on an upward trajectory so far. I’ve participated in enough Olympics. I’m here to compete.”

Jake Weidemann, the brother of Isabelle, recorded two top-10 results as he was sixth in the 1,500 metres in 1:45.47 and seventh in the 1,000 metres in 1:08.97.

GEE-GEES WIN OUA WOMEN’S GOLF TEAM BRONZE

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s golf team of Rachel Jackson, Mackenzie Deveau, Ashley Thompson and Madeline MacMillan won the women’s team bronze medal at the 18-hole OUA golf championships at Cherry Hills Golf and Country Club near Welland, ON.

Western grabbed top honors with a three-player score of 241, while Windsor was second at 252 and Ottawa finished third at plus-43 259.

Jackson sparked the Gee-Gees with an eight-over-par 80, which also left her fourth in the individual rankings. Deveau tied for 15th place at 88 with Carleton University Ravens’ Emma Harvie. Thompson shot 91 and MacMillan 103.

On the men’s side, Carleton’s Daniel Ryan shot a two-over 73 to tie for ninth place, while Ottawa teammates Jared Coyle and Nick Workun finished with 75s.

Ottawa and Carleton placed seventh and eighth respectively in the men’s team category at plus-23 307 and plus-24 308.

RAVENS’ RALLY FALLS SHORT IN OUA BASEBALL SEMIFINAL

Carleton University Ravens rallied from a six-run deficit in the top of the fifth inning, but fell one run short and lost their OUA baseball semi-final 6-5 to McMaster University.

Centre fielder Andrew Sahadeo and third-baseman Damon Gregoris paced the Ravens with three hits each and combined to register three runs and two RBIs. Catcher Quinten McRae had two hits, including a double, in his three plate appearances and added two RBIs.

Jayson Moss-McEachern was the losing pitcher, allowing six runs, including four earned, and had three strikeouts.

WINNING WEEKEND FOR GEE-GEES’ BASKETBALL TEAMS

It’s only the start of the exhibition season, but the University of Ottawa men’s and women’s basketball teams combined to win three of four games against Quebec teams.

Maxime Boursiquot, who played three seasons with NCAA Division 1 Northeastern University and averaged 21.5 minutes, 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, had a near-perfect shooting game in the Gee-Gees’ 70-64 win over McGill.

Boursiquot connected on all nine of his field-goal attempts, including one three-point shot, and made one of his two free throws to finish with 20 points. He added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in his Ottawa debut.

Ottawa defeated the University of Quebec at Montreal 86-61 and Guillaume Pepin held the hot shooting hand this time. He made eight of his 12 field-goal attempts, including three from beyond the arc, and finished with 21 points.

After losing its pre-season opener 89-77 to Bishop’s University, the Gee-Gees women’s team gave new head coach Rose-Anne Joly her first victory with a 61-58 decision over Laval.

Fifth-year forward Anne Carr scored 16 points for the Gee-Gees against Laval, while Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu added 15 points and eight rebounds and Natsuki Szczokin contributed 14 points and four assists.

Lefebvre-Okankwu led the Gee-Gees with 22 points and seven rebounds against Bishop’s. Melina De Iulio added 13 points, four rebounds and two steals.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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