By Martin Cleary
Round and round she goes and when Ivanie Blondin stops … she usually finds herself on the long-track speed skating World Cup medal podium.
After posting a pair of wins during the opening weekend in Stavanger, Norway, the Gloucester skater managed one silver and one bronze medals at World Cup No. 2 in Heerenveen, The Netherlands this past weekend.
Blondin, 32, is in her 13th season on the World Cup circuit against the best in the world and she’s on pace to compete in a season-record number of races, which could take her to a milestone moment. She has already had 12 races after the first two World Cups and she could potentially skate in another 20 races. She has had a 22-race World Cup season in 2018-19 and three 20-race campaigns.
Since leaving short-track speed skating and switching to the long-track discipline in 2010-11, she has gone to the start line for 185 races. If she competes in three-quarters of her remaining races, she’ll reach the 200 mark.
As for medals, Blondin is no stranger to the podium. According to her International Skating Union biography, she has won 23 gold, 25 silver and 23 bronze medals in the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metres, the team pursuit, the mass start and the team sprint.
Blondin won only her second career three-lap, team-sprint World Cup medal in Heerenveen, when she joined Canadian sprinters Carolina Hiller and Brooklyn McDougall to earn the silver medal with a time of one minute, 27.45 seconds. The Netherlands team won in 1:26.57.
That was quite an amazing result for Canada, since Blondin, Hiller and McDougall hadn’t practised as a team before the race.
Competing in one of her favourite races, the mass start, Blondin narrowly lost a sprint to the finish with The Netherlands’ Marijke Groenewoud for the silver medal. Groenewoud took the silver in 8:48.55, while the photo finish directed the bronze to Blondin in 8:48.57.
Irene Schouten of The Netherlands broke away from the field and skated a dominating solo for the last nine of 16 laps to win in 8:30.34.
“It was a stacked day, skating the mass start semis, the 1,000 metres and then the mass start final. But at the end of the day, a podium is a podium and I’m pretty happy with that,” said Blondin, who beat both Dutch skaters in Stavanger by charging off the final corner.
“The Dutch girls had a good game plan going into the race, continuing to attack until one of them got away. It was a great tactic on their part, that’s for sure.
“For me, it was a bit more challenging to try and win it today as I was racing alone, so to speak. I still tried for the final sprint and it was really close, but she (Marijke) just edged me out in the last metres.”
Blondin’s weekend race card also included fifth-place results in the 1,500 and 3,000 metres in respective times of 1:54.94 (a strong second half) and 3:59.82 (challenging for the bronze medal early). She also was 10th over 1,000 metres in 1:15.40.
Ottawa’s Isabelle Weidemann only had one race in Heerenveen, but she made the most of it with a silver-medal effort in the women’s 3,000 metres.
Paired against Schouten for the first time in a long time, The Netherlands skater took control of their battle early and never let up. She not only won the race in 3:54.04, but also lowered her track record by 0.55 seconds.
Weidemann was dealing with an illness leading up to the race and it took her until the final lap to put herself into medal contention. At the first three time stations, she was sitting 11th, but gradually moved up to eighth, fifth, fourth and finished in second.
“I was really happy with how it went,” said Weidemann, who placed third in the 3,000-metre race in Stavanger as well as contributing to Canada’s team-pursuit win. “I’m very surprised with the time that I skated because I was a little bit sick this week and I’m not feeling great so I thought I was just going in to battle for some points.
“I haven’t actually raced Irene (Schouten) in a long time so it was nice to see where the gap is that I have to close to beat her. She is setting a standard for women in long-distance events right now and I really want to push that and contend with her.”
Gatineau’s Cedrick Brunet, competing in his second career World Cup, was 19th in the men’s 500 metres in 35.42. His time was faster than his 15th-place showing in Stavanger at 35.68.
The World Cup circuit resumes with back-to-back meets in Calgary from Dec. 9-11 and Dec. 16-18.
TEAM HOMAN UNSTOPPABLE IN CURLING PLAYOFFS
The Rachel Homan curling team was Tripleheader Tough on Monday.
Putting in a full day’s work with a little overtime, Homan and skip Tracy Fleury recorded three straight playoff victories to win the women’s portion of the Prism Flow Red Deer Classic curling competition.
After blanking the first two ends, Homan scored one in the third end, stole one in the fourth and closed the match early with three in the sixth for a 5-1 decision over Casey Scheidegger in the championship game. The final ended after six of eight scheduled ends.
It was Homan’s second win this season, after capturing the Hearing Life Tour Challenge in October. The Homan victory was her 15th against seven losses when playing Scheidegger.
Homan, the team third who throws final stones, Fleury, second Emma Miskew and lead Sarah Wilkes reached the final by defeating American Tabitha Peterson 5-3 in the semifinals and Jessie Hunkin of Spruce Grove, AB., 6-3 in the quarterfinal.
In the preliminary matches, Homan’s rink won her first three matches for an automatic qualification into the playoffs.
At the Service Experts Shootout Mixed Doubles Super Series in Leduc, AB., Ottawa’s Lisa Weagle and Toronto’s John Epping lost in the semifinals 5-3 to Kerri Einarson of Gimli, MB., and Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
After winning all four games and placing first in their round-robin pool, Weagle and Epping defeated Shannon Birchard of Winnipeg and former Ottawa curler John Morris of Canmore, AB., 9-5 in the quarterfinals.
IMPRESSIVE FINISH FOR GOLFER KURTIS BARKLEY IN DUBAI
Cedar Glen Golf Course’s Kurtis Barkley finished in a tie for second place in the 36-hole G4D (Golf for Disabled) Tour Finale as part of the DP World Tour Championships in Dubai.
Barkley, who was born with a curvature of the spine, shot rounds of 78-73 for a seven-over-par 151. He finished tied with American Chris Biggins. Sweden’s Rasmus Lia was four strokes better with a plus-three finish of 75-72-147.
The Canadian All-Abilities champion, Barkley placed fifth in the G4D Tour Masters, eighth in the Porsche European Open, ninth in the BMW PGA championship and 10th in the Horizon Irish Open.
uOTTAWA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM REMAINS UNDEFEATED
There’s only one undefeated Ontario university basketball team in Ottawa now and that 5-0 record belongs to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s squad.
The Gee-Gees ran past the Lakehead University Thunderwolves 81-31 as Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu led the way with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Alana Renon chipped in 14 points, Emily Payne had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Natsuki Szczokin contributed 11 points, seven steals and four assists.
The No. 2 University of Ottawa men’s team fell from the undefeated ranks after four opening wins, losing 69-65 to Lakehead. Guillaume Pepin sparked the Gee-Gees with 14 points and nine rounds. Cole Newton tossed in 13 points, while Quincy Louis-Jeune and Dragan Stajic added 12 and 11 points respectively.
The No. 1-ranked Carleton University Ravens men’s team was outclassed by the Queen’s University Gaels 76-62 as Luka and Cole Syllas once again paced the Gaels with respective point totals of 19 and 13.
In their last meeting, the 2022 OUA East Division final, Queen’s managed an 86-80 victory over Carleton as Cole Syllas dominated with 39 points and Luka added 12.
Carleton lost each of the first three quarters as its deficit grew from four points to 15 and eventually 19 with only the fourth quarter remaining.
Aiden Warnholtz was Carleton’s top scorer with 22 points. Wazir Latiff scored 13 and Grant Shephard had nine points and as many rebounds.
Ottawa’s Julia Chadwick was unstoppable, scoring 18 points and adding 18 rebounds as Queen’s defeated Carleton 71-65 in the women’s match. Isabella Gaudet of Ottawa added five points for the Gaels.
Kali Pocrnic was the Ravens’ best scorer with 16 points, while Florence Fortin stepped forward with 14 points.
OTTAWA’S KATLEY JOSEPH HEADED FOR VANIER CUP FOOTBALL FINAL
Defensive back Katley Joseph of Ottawa played a solid game and extended his U Sports football season one more game as the University of Saskatchewan Huskies will meet the Université Laval Rouge et Or in the Vanier Cup national championship on Saturday.
The Huskies exploded for 23 fourth-quarter points to break a 13-13 deadlock and roll past St. Francis Xavier X-Men 39-19 in the Uteck Bowl.
Joseph was one of five Huskies defensive players with three tackles. He also added two assists.
Receiver Zakariya Karim of Ottawa caught two passes for 41 yards for the X-Men. Earlier, Karim was named to the Atlantic University Sports first all-star team.
Former Carleton Ravens linebacker Makayeo Hall made two tackles and added one assist for the X-Man, while Immaculata High School product Chris Lemoine had one tackle as a linebacker.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.