Elite Amateur Sport Skating

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Ivanie Blondin secures elusive Olympic speed-skating medal and it’s gold

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

By Martin Cleary

Ivanie Blondin is a go-getter.

The Ottawa long-track speed skater wanted to customize Canada’s women’s team pursuit helmets with decals, paint and a shiny top coat. But the professional price estimate she received shocked her. She decided to take the project on herself, researched what she had to do and finished five helmets (three racers, one spare, one just in case) one week before leaving for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

After disappointing results in the women’s 3,000 and 1,500 metres at the Games, Blondin withdrew from the 5,000 metres to give herself a better chance to win a medal in Tuesday’s team pursuit, which would be her first-ever medal in three Winter Olympic Games.

Blondin, who raced with teammates Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa and Valérie Maltais, got things done again as Canada captured the gold medal with a late charge against Japan in the final, registering an Olympic record time of two minutes, 53.44 seconds. Japan led the race by 0.32 seconds entering the final 200 metres before Nana Takagi crashed, recovered and finished in 3:04.47 for the silver medal.

(From left) Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais celebrate their Olympic gold medal in the women’s team pursuit on Feb. 15, 2022. Photo: Andrew Lahodynskyj / COC

“It’s what she wanted. She was missing an Olympic medal out of all her (World Cup and world championship) medals,” said her father Bob Blondin, whose heart has returned to its normal sinus rhythm after watching the heart-pounding, six-lap final. “She’s got one now and it’s gold.

“We wanted her to win a medal in her third Olympics. But you never know at the Olympics. It’s a different ball game.”

Canada was favoured to win the women’s team pursuit gold medal, after capturing all three races on the World Cup circuit this season. But in one of the World Cup races, Japan was racing Canada in a final and held a late lead until one of its racers crashed, giving Canada the victory.

After the flower and medal presentations and a press conference, Blondin returned to her hotel room exhausted and contacted her parents by FaceTime.

“She said it (medal) was a big burden off her back,” Bob Blondin added. “‘That is what I wanted,’ she said. There’s so much stress. She showed us her medal. She said it was heavy. She was tired.”

Bob Blondin and long-time Ottawa coach Mike Rivet questioned whether Ivanie should skate five Olympic races, after qualifying for all five. But Ivanie Blondin felt it was a logical thing to do, until the Olympics started. She has one race remaining, the mass start, on Saturday and she’s considered a top medal candidate.

“I’m super excited for her,” said Rivet, who coached her with the Gloucester Concordes at the Brewer Park skating oval for seven years. “Ivanie has won more than 60 World Cup medals and a dozen world championship medals. The elusive one was the Olympic medal. But she’s got it now.

“The beauty thing in her case is she’s going into the mass start, which is her best event, with the monkey off her back. Now, she can race it and not have to worry that she’ll miss out on an Olympic medal.”

Rivet also coached Weidemann for seven years and he could sense greatness in the making by the time they both reached 14 years old.

“They were both on the right path,” he added. “They had the proper mindset and they kept working hard, really hard. They were committed.”

Rivet, who still coaches at the Brewer Park oval and maintains the ice surface, was a pre-Games sounding board for Blondin. For the two weeks before leaving for the Olympics, Blondin talked to Rivet about a dozen times about speed skating, the Olympics and her long journey in the sport.

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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.

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