HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Long-track speed skater Ivanie Blondin, a double Olympic medallist at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, is going on tour.
Teammate and triple Olympic medal winner Isabelle Weidemann is staying put as she didn’t accept an invitation from Speed Skating Canada to participate in the outreach opportunity.
Beginning Tuesday, Speed Skating Canada will raise the curtain on its 2022-23 season by staging its inaugural Medals on Tour, which will see 12 long-track and short-track athletes visit popular speed-skating communities in six provinces to share their Olympic, World Cup and world championship medals.
The national sport governing body and its long-time sponsor Intact Insurance are sending two different athletes to six different cities “to showcase the sport’s recent success,” according to a press release this week.
But the tour will not be coming to Ottawa, which is the hometown of Blondin and Weidemann, the only long-track speed skaters to win multiple medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Weidemann won a full set of medals in her three endurance events and was selected Canada’s flag-bearer for the Closing Ceremony. Blondin shared the Olympic team pursuit gold medal with Weidemann and Valérie Maltais, and also took silver in the mass start.
The Medals on Tour runs every day from Tuesday through Sept. 17 with two-day visits in Trois-Rivières, PQ.; Kamloops, B.C.; Saskatoon, SK; Winnipeg, MB; Toronto; and Dartmouth, N.S.
The program is different in each city as speed skating members and the general public can interact with national-team skaters in on- and off-ice events. The athletes and public could be involved in public-skating sessions, school visits and events with local charities and community groups.
On Sept. 14-15, Blondin and short-track speed skater Jordan Pierre-Gilles of Sherbrooke, PQ., will visit Toronto.
Blondin and Pierre-Gilles will lead an on-ice training session on the evening of Sept. 14 for members of the Toronto Speed Skating Club. The event is only open to Speed Skating Ontario members.
On Sept. 15, they will visit the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and connect with children who have faced adversity. Plans haven’t been finalized for a public event.
It’s unclear why Weidemann didn’t accept an invitation to participate in one of the two-day tours. Emails sent to Weidemann and agent Colin Young were not answered on Friday.
“We reached out to all of the skaters that represented Canada at Beijing 2022 and encouraged them to sign-up for Medals on Tour, if they were interested,” Speed Skating Canada marketing and communications manager Alain Brouillette wrote in an email to HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition.
“Certain athletes were unable to commit due to the timing of the tour conflicting with their personal training plans or other obligations, which is completely understandable. While it would have been incredible to have the entire team take part, we’re really happy that 12 of our Olympic skaters will get this unique opportunity to travel the country and showcase our sport’s recent success.”
Speed Skating Canada selected six communities with “a rich history of speed skating (Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Trois-Rivières) as well as some that don’t often get the opportunity to interact with Olympic-level speed skaters (Kamloops, Dartmouth and Toronto),” Brouillette added.
“Ottawa is no doubt a great speed-skating community and we’ve got plans to have a presence there this winter to showcase the sport.”
Brouillette was unable to release any details of the upcoming Ottawa event.
Here are the tour dates and cities for the remaining 10 national-team, speed-skating athletes:
· Sept. 6-7 – Trois-Rivieres, PQ.
Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu of Montreal and Florence Brunelle of Trois-Rivières
· Sept. 8-9 – Kamloops
Tyson Langelaar of Winnipeg and Gilmore Junio of Calgary
· Sept. 10-11 – Saskatoon
Brooklyn McDougall of Calgary and Marsha Hudey of White City, SK.
· Sept. 12-13 – Winnipeg
Heather McLean of Winnipeg and Danae Blais of Chateauguay, PQ.
· Sept. 16-17 – Dartmouth, NS.
Valérie Maltais of La Baie, PQ., and Jordan Belchos of Markham, ON.
“Medals on Tour will be a great opportunity for our national-team athletes to give back to the community and inspire the next generation of Canadians to achieve their dreams on and off the ice,” Speed Skating Canada CEO Susan Auch said in the press release.
“I’ll be bringing my Olympic medals along to share with two of our communities as well.”
Auch competed in five Winter Olympics in two speed-skating disciplines, winning long-track silver medals over 500 metres in 1998 and 1994, and a short-track bronze in the 3,000-metre relay in 1988.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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