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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 8: Blondin out of 5000m; tons of action ahead

Ottawa at the Olympics Day 8: Women’s curling begins

By Ethan Diamandas, Dan Plouffe, Martin Cleary & Charlie Pinkerton (This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)

With no Ottawa athletes in action Tuesday, we thought now would be a perfect time to preview the exciting new wave of events commencing Thursday. 

We’ve seen one medal from an Ottawa Olympian so far, but with women’s curling and men’s hockey starting very soon, and more speedskating coming up shortly, that’s very likely to change. 

Rivals turned teammates, Weagle and McEwen seek curling gold

Dawn McEwen (left) and Lisa Weagle with Olympic trials gold medals. Photo: Curling Canada

Despite playing the same lead position, Lisa Weagle and Dawn McEwen have worked out some solid chemistry with one other. 

“Dawn always wants to make sure that we’re both recognized as lead,” Weagle told the Sports Pages, emphasizing the mutual respect with her teammate.

Since Weagle joined McEwen’s rink skipped by Jennifer Jones in March 2020, the duo has made each other better. Weagle shared some valuable pointers with McEwen about her famous tick shot, the ‘Weagle Wiggle,’ and has happily slid into a support role on the squad.

When McEwen left the rink during the 2020-2021 season for her pregnancy, Weagle filled in seamlessly, which McEwen greatly appreciated. 

“It took a bit of pressure off of me … Lisa is such an amazing player, and she brings so much to the team on and off the ice,” McEwen told the Sports Pages’ Ethan Diamandas in December. “I was able just to kind of relax and watch the team play and perform.”

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It wasn’t always that way, though.

Their earliest interactions began as competitors, with McEwen on Team Jones and Weagle competing on Team Homan. Weagle said she looked up to McEwen, who’s several years older. 

“Dawn was always that benchmark and that standard for me,” Weagle said. “When I was playing lead and learning that position, I would always look at Dawn’s stats or look at what Dawn was doing.”

Dawn McEwen. File photo

But now they are together in a unique five-woman rotation — and with Jones, who many consider Canada’s greatest curler ever, at the helm, Canada begins the Olympic bonspiel as one of the favourites to win gold.

“And for me at this point, I just want to lay it all out there, try and work my butt off,” said McEwen, who, at 41, could be competing in her last Olympics. 

The Canadian women’s team begins round robin play on Thursday at 7:05 a.m. (eastern) with a matchup versus South Korea.

Day 9 Preview: Speedskating continues; Men’s hockey ready for puck drop

Isabelle Weidemann. File photo

Gloucester’s Isabelle Weidemann got the whole country rocking when she picked up Canada’s first medal in Beijing — a bronze in the women’s 3,000-metre long-track event — and now she’s hoping to add some more hardware at the 5,000m Thursday morning at 7 a.m. eastern. 

As one of the world’s best endurance skaters, Weidemann battled in the 3,000m, refusing to fade when it looked like she might’ve been out of energy. 

“I think I hit about four laps to go and I could see my pair was starting to slow down a little bit, and I knew I had a little bit more so I think at that point I was like, ‘I can fight this,’” Weidemann said after the race on Feb. 5

When her legs get heavy and the going gets tough in the even longer 5,000m event, the 26-year-old will be prepared to manage fatigue in her second Olympic Games. 

“This year, my biggest goal was to get to the Olympics,” Weidemann told the Sports Pages’ Martin Cleary in January. “I felt refreshed. I wasn’t burned out. I had stuff in the tank. I made a mistake in the past by going hard way too early.”

Coming into these Games, Weidemann’s an experienced skater. She raced to a sixth place finish in the event at the 2018 PyeongChang Games — and she’ll now be the lone Canadian to compete in the 5,000m in Beijing.

Special Guest Column: Isabelle’s brilliant race

As brief aside to our preview, today we have a high-spirited report from most likely the Sports Pages’ youngest contributor ever at age 6.

For context: this kind of occurrence is likely familiar to every parent who has worked from makeshift home offices in the COVID-era. While Sports Pages Executive Director Dan Plouffe was recently interviewing Isabelle Weidemann, Dan’s daughter needed something from the same room. She decided to stick around and listen to the chat with Isabelle (with whom she proudly shares her middle name). The younger Plouffe later composed this report.

By Karina Isabelle Plouffe

Isabelle was brilliant against Norway! She is a great speedskater. Isabelle chose the perfect sport for herself. This Olympics she has won herself a bronze medal. Her partner, Ivanie is very happy for her. Her family was cheering for her. Also, her family was very happy when she won a bronze medal. Isabelle raced fair with Norway. She is careful with her speed in speedskating. Isabelle is perfect in every way. Her speedskating is wonderful. We love Isabelle! She’s a brilliant speedskater! Go Isabelle go! Let’s go Isabelle! Go Isabelle the speed skater! You can do it! Go Isabelle! Go Isabelle! Go!

Blondin taking a breather

Ivanie Blondin. File photo

Weidemann’s speedskating teammate, Ivanie Blondin, announced Wednesday she was withdrawing from the 5,000m event.

“The decision was made in collaboration with Blondin, her coach and support staff to maximize Team Canada’s performance in the upcoming team pursuit event,” the Canadian Olympic Committee said in a press release. 

The 31-year-old Orleans native has struggled so far in Beijing, finishing 13th in the 1,500m and 14th in the 3,000m race. The upcoming team pursuit (Feb. 12) and the mass start (Feb. 19) represent Blondin’s best chance to medal, so she’ll now rest up accordingly. 

“For me, the team pursuit has always been an easier distance in my head,” Blondin told the CBC after her 1,500 m race. “Just knowing I could rely on my teammates takes a little bit of the pressure off and I always skate well like that. And the mass start is a physical fight, and I’m good at those.”

Lack of NHL players gives young phenoms a shot

For NHL hockey fans, it was devastating news to hear their favourite players wouldn’t be allowed to represent their countries in the Beijing Olympics. On the flip side, it means some younger athletes from Ottawa have been given a massive opportunity. 

Thirty-one-year-old Eric O’Dell, along with youngsters Mason McTavish and Devon Levi, cracked Canada’s interesting roster of players for the Olympic tournament.

It’s certainly not the powerhouse roster we’ve come to expect from Canada, but it has its strengths, and team captain Eric Staal — one of a few ex-NHLers on the squad — recognizes the young talent.

“No question these kids are prepared,” Staal told CBC. “These guys are ready for this type of stage. Owen [Power], [Kent Johnson], and Mason [McTavish] definitely fit the bill as far as that goes, and you can throw Devon Levi in that mix.” 

Ottawa’s Eric O’Dell (left) and Mason McTavish. File photos

McTavish is expected to have the biggest impact of Ottawa’s men’s hockey players at the Games. At just 19 years old, the Carp native is the youngest player on Canada’s roster, but may be one of the most talented.

“McTavish is a kid who’s turned so many heads,” Team Canada GM Shane Doan told the Toronto Sun. “He’s had an incredible year this last 12 months. But it goes back to adapting and understanding that things aren’t the way they used to be.

“His skill level is really something. His composure with the puck … I’ve been so impressed.”

When Canada plays its first game against Germany at 8:10 a.m. eastern on Thursday, don’t be surprised if you see McTavish’s rugged 213-pound frame hugging the opposing crease, ready to bang in a goal and set the stage early for a deep Team Canada run.

Two-time Olympian Seyi Smith pushing climate considerations at future Olympics

Seyi Smith. File photo

Ottawa’s Seyi Smith is loaded with Olympic experience. A relay sprinter in the summer and bobsledder in the winter, Smith also specializes in renewable energy technologies — and he wanted to do his part to tackle climate change by rallying his athletic peers, major sport organizations and grassroots sport groups.

Smith is one of 17 candidates running to fill two vacant seats on the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission, a group of elected athletes who represent their interests to the body that orchestrates the Games. Voting started on Jan. 27 and will conclude Feb. 16.

If elected, Smith wants the world’s younger generation to recognize they can do their part to protect the planet.

“Becoming an Olympian takes millions of small steps and a few big performances,” Smith wrote in a first-person story for CBC. “Fighting climate change is the same. Yes, it can seem insurmountable, but if everyone starts taking small steps to make a difference, the big and crucial changes will come, too.”

Read Smith’s full story, as written by the Sports Pages’ Martin Cleary, here

That’s all for today! Next time you hear from us there’ll be plenty of competition to recap, so enjoy tomorrow’s events and catch our next newsletter for the inside scoop on your favourite Ottawa athletes.

Ottawa athletes’ competition schedule:

View the full competition schedule for all Ottawa Olympians here.

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

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1 comment

  1. Great coverage on the Olympics!! Fantastic contribution by Karina Isabelle Plouffe!! Will she be contributing to future columns?? Well done!!

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