HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann, who were named Monday as part of Canada’s 16-member long-track speed skating team for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, have plenty of reasons to be charged up for their first race.
On Feb. 5, a day after the official Opening Ceremony, third-time Olympian Blondin and Weidemann, who will be competing in her second Games, will race the women’s 3,000 metres. If either or both win a medal, personal and national history will be written.
A medal that evening would be the first for a Canadian athlete at the Games and more could follow in men’s freestyle skiing moguls and short-track speed skating’s mixed relay.
A spot on the podium would give Canada its 200th career medal at the Winter Olympic Games. Canada has already won 73 gold, 64 silver and 62 bronze medals, since its first Winter Games in 1924. Canada is ranked fifth among winter sport nations with 199 medals.
Long-track speed skating has been Canada’s most successful winter Olympic sport with 37 medals.
A medal by either Blondin or Weidemann or both would be the first Olympic medals in their impressive international careers.
“It is a privilege to be representing Canada again at Beijing 2022,” said Blondin, one of nine returning Canadian long-track speed skating Olympians, in a press release. “I am heading there with a goal of redemption, after my last Olympic Games and a drive to make myself and all Canadians proud.
“Our teams have proven to be resilient, determined and fiercely passionate over the past four years, and we are excited to use those qualities to power our performances on the ice.”
Blondin will carry the bulk of the competitive load for the Canadian team. She will compete in five races, which is two more than her nearest teammate: the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metres, team pursuit and mass start.
Weidemann will focus on the 3,000 and 5,000 metres as well as the team pursuit.
A strong medal candidate in the women’s 3,000 and 5,000 metres, Weidemann is ranked No. 1 in the long-distance race category on the World Cup circuit. She has had two second-place results and one fourth over 3,000 metres, and a second in the only 5,000-metre race. While she is the World Cup long-distance points leader, The Netherlands’ Irene Schouten has three wins in her three races and didn’t contest the fourth race.
Blondin, Weidemann and teammate Valérie Maltais were unbeatable in women’s team pursuit and won the overall World Cup title, after capturing all three races this season.
The women’s mass start is one of Blondin’s best events. In six point-scoring races this season, she had one first, four seconds and one third and is on top of the World Cup standings with one race left.
Blondin’s busy race schedule also will include the 1,500 metres, where she is ranked 11th in the World Cup standings. In her four World Cup races, she has had only one top-10 result, an eighth.
Speed Skating Canada also named Vincent De Haître of Cumberland, ON., as a member of its non-travelling alternates roster.
De Haître knew it would be difficult to make his third Olympic team in long-track speed skating, after training the past two years with Canada’s track cycling team and racing to a fifth-place showing in team pursuit at the recent Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
“It’s almost impossible,” De Haître told isu.org about his chances of having enough time to return to being a strong speed skater after focusing on cycling. “I can’t recommend it to anyone, especially during a pandemic. I do it because I can. It’s a challenge.”
On speed skating’s World Cup circuit this season, De Haître was ranked 19th overall and was the fourth Canadian in the 1,000 metres, and 45th in the 1,500 metres, after competing in two lower B division races.
In his four 1,000 metres races, he placed 14th, 17th (twice) and 18th.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.