By Martin Cleary
Ottawa’s Isabelle Weidemann has a fascinating wish list rattling around in her mind and it has nothing to do with planning a training schedule, qualifying for a team or winning medals.
The lean and lanky long-track speed skater already achieved those three traditional athlete steps on her second Olympic journey to the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
But since that strategy allowed her to accomplish an unprecedented performance by an Ottawa athlete in the Olympic arena, she can now afford to dig out that wish list, dust it off and get to it.
Weidemann’s four-point wish list cries out for her to buy her own altitude tent for an endurance-training boost, travel somewhere else for a training camp, purchase her skating equipment without worry and have a healthy supply of proper food and supplements.
And now she can make things happen since her Olympic gold (team pursuit), silver (5,000 metres) and bronze (3,000 metres) medals will put a substantial amount of money into her bank account.
The Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athlete Excellence Fund has been operating for 25 years to support and reward athletic performance. Here’s the breakdown – $20,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze. By winning a full set of medals on the Beijing oval, which were the first Olympic medals of her career, Weidemann is eligible to receive $45,000.
She also was hoping to add to her own athlete fund for another potential four-year run by attending the International Skating Union World Cup Final on Saturday and Sunday in Heerenveen, The Netherlands. But Weidemann had to cancel her plans Thursday as she was still dealing with COVID-19.
After undergoing six tests in the past week in her training city of Calgary, her CT Values didn’t reach a level for her travel to Heerenveen or be allowed to enter the athlete bubble environment.
“I had values that looked promising,” said Weidemann, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday and was planning to fly to The Netherlands on Thursday. “Do I risk taking a flight? I talked it over with my coach. I’ve had an incredible season.
“I’m under the weather. I got sick for sure, but not that sick. I definitely couldn’t have skated well this weekend. I was going to the (start) line to pick up (World Cup) points.
“Honestly, I got very lucky (over the past two years). COVID is not what I wanted to end the year. At least I’m at home and not stuck in Europe or abroad. I’m home with my family.”
Weidemann ended her five-day isolation under the Alberta health mandate on Thursday and ventured into the community to try some training at the oval.
If Weidemann had been healthy enough to compete in the World Cup Final and skated the way she had this season, she would have been in strong contention to retain her lead in the long-distance category, win the title and pocket $15,000 (U.S.)
Currently, she leads the standings, but now hopes to finish in the top three. The second- and third-place skaters will receive $10,000 and $7,000 respectively. Prize money for the final standings in all women’s and men’s race categories is paid out to the top 10, where 10th place is worth $1,500.
Weidemann, Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., earlier won the World Cup women’s team pursuit title and earned the top prize of $7,000. In the individual World Cup races this season, Weidemann also earned a share of $6,300 from three team pursuit wins and $3,000 from three second-place results in her long-distance races (3,000 and 5,000 metres).
She didn’t attend the world all-around championship last weekend in Hamar, Norway, because she wanted to spend more time with her family after the Beijing Olympics. The women’s races covered 500, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metres over two days and the prize money for the top three skaters was $20,000 (U.S.), $18,000 and $8,000 respectively. The sixth-place skater would have earned $3,250.
Weidemann is appreciative of the COC reward money and the race prize money from the ISU as it will help cover her expenses and allow her to try to become a better speed skater. But she never entered the sport to make money, only to go fast and see where it would take her.
Funded as well through federal government programs and business sponsorships, Weidemann is more focused on trying to go faster around the oval.
Weidemann will turn 27 this summer, but she’s “motivated to keep going and I want to do more speed skating.”
“I’m someone who wants to go faster,” she explained. “Medals and results always come second to me. I want to push the women’s five-kilometre time, set the Canadian standard in the 5K and skate a faster 3K. These are things I think of in training every day. Shaving off seconds; that always motivates me.
“I love the aspect you can always be better. It has nothing to do with people.”
Besides being one of only two Canadians to win three medals at the Beijing Olympics, Weidemann found the Winter Games was an overall overwhelming experience that she labelled “totally wild,” “totally insane” and “a total whirlwind.”
And in the end, the triple medallist became Canada’s flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony. Weidemann was only the third Ottawa athlete to be a Canadian Olympic flagbearer behind shooter Linda Thom (Closing Ceremony, 1984 Summer Games) and Sue Holloway (named for the 1980 Summer Games Opening Ceremony, but the team did not participate in the Moscow Olympics).
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she recalled. “I was quite overwhelmed. I never imagined having that opportunity.
“They brought all the athletes together in a tent, every athlete from every country. In that gigantic tent, it was loud and we were all celebrating. Then they separated the flagbearers. I was happy to sit, watch the other people, observe it all and soak it in. It was a total whirlwind.”
Sort of like the whirlwind Weidemann created moving around the long-track speed skating oval.
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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