By Martin Cleary
The hard work, pressure and expectations surrounding the all-encompassing Beijing Winter Olympic Games are finished for Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa.
Let the fun begin for the humble and powerful long-track speed skater, who executed a near-perfect, ladder-climbing performance in her second Olympics – a full set of medals in three races and performed in dramatic fashion, opening with a bronze in the 3,000 metres, stepping up to silver in the 5,000 metres and climaxing with the gold in Tuesday’s team pursuit.
Weidemann’s unprecedented showings at the National Speed Skating Oval made her the first Ottawa athlete ever to win three medals in a single Winter or Summer Olympic Games. She became the fifth Canadian athlete (all speed skaters) to capture three or more medals in one Winter Games, and the second to win one medal of each colour in a single Olympics.
Her name now resides in elite company beside long-trackers Cindy Klassen (one gold, two silver and two bronze in 2006) and Gaetzn Boucher (2-0-2 in 1984) as well as short-trackers Marc Gagnon (2-0-1 in 2002) and Kim Boutin (0-1-2 in 2018).
And it would only make sense for the Canadian Olympic Committee to name Weidemann as its flagbearer or one of two flagbearers for the Closing Ceremony on Sunday. After that, she’ll return home to her family for more fun and her Olympic Oval training base in Calgary to prepare for the world championships March 2-5 in Hamar, Norway, and the World Cup Final March 11-12 in Heerenveen, The Netherlands.
When Weidemann ends her 2021-22 season in the middle of next month, she’ll begin to learn the value of her three Olympic medals in terms of sponsorship contracts.
Weidemann entered this Olympic season with one sponsorship deal that gives her “generous support,” according to Colin Young, the president of the Calgary-based SportBrand Canada Inc., which represents Weidemann.
“I think she’s in a great spot,” Young said in a telephone interview a few hours after Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa and Valérie Maltais combined to win the women’s team pursuit final over Japan in an Olympic record two minutes, 53.44 seconds for six laps around the 400-metre oval. Japan led Canada by 0.32 seconds entering the final 200 metres, before Nana Takagi crashed, recovered and gave her country a finishing time of 3:04.47 for the silver medal.
Young added Weidemann doesn’t speed skate with the intention of making money, but rather for the joy of skating better and faster each time out. By finishing her second Winter Games with a unique, full collection of medals, however, she puts herself in an envious situation to explore sponsorship contracts that will make her athletic and personal life easier down the road.
“She’s bilingual, carries herself well, is very well spoken, is a typically humble Canadian athlete and has done something amazing at the Olympics,” Young added. “She’s in a great spot and will have lots of opportunities.”
Still weary from watching Weidemann and her teammates rally to defeat The Netherlands in the semifinals by 0.98 seconds and Japan in the final, Young hadn’t received any phone calls from potential corporate sponsors or businesses as of Tuesday morning.
“It takes time. It won’t happen right away. They know where she is and will think about it. We’ll become active over the next month,” Young said.
Weidemann is one of nine Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Winter athletes who are part of Sobeys’ Feed the Dream marketing program, which is based on food, family and aspirations. The national food retailer, which is owned by Empire, liked Weidemann’s story. Her parents moved the family to Calgary from Ottawa several years ago to join Isabelle and allow their other daughter and one son to pursue their long-track speed skating dreams.
Sobeys’ TV commercials include hockey’s Marie-Philip Poulin, snowboard’s Max Parrot, para nordic skier Mark Arendz and Weidemann. For the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics last July, Sobeys’ cast of athletes included athletics’ Damian Warner, artistic gymnastics’ Ellie Black and athletics’ Andre De Grasse.
Sobeys welcomed Weidemann about 18 months ago to support her journey to the Beijing Olympics. Young is hoping he can extend that contract for four years to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. She also benefits from team sponsors Intact Insurance, Descente, and 4iiii.
“That’s the exciting part. Now, there’s more opportunities for longer-term deals,” he added. “Our job is to make the deal better and longer.”
Young would like to attract sponsorship deals that fit Weidemann’s lifestyle. He has her sponsorship package ready to send out and plans to concentrate on sponsorship in the fields of automotive, nutrition and eyewear. She would like to replace her aging Audi station wagon and has a keen interest in healthy food and wellness.
Weidemann’s bio on the SportBrand website also mentions she hopes to secure a major race suit logo sponsor for $10,000 to $15,000 a year plus performance bonuses. Image and likeness rights for marketing purposes begin at $5,000.
“She’s not going to be a millionaire, but that’s not why she got into speed skating,” Young said.
He believes Weidemann can attract enough proper sponsorship deals to allow her “to live a comfortable life and enjoy being an athlete for the rest of her career.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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.
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