By Martin Cleary
When it comes to the women’s team pursuit event in long-track speed skating, world teams have been pursuing Canada for a long time and with little success.
The Canadian team of Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa, Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa and Valérie Maltais of Saguenay, PQ., has owned this six-lap, 2,400-metre oval race for the past three years, losing only once in the past 10 major international races.
For the third straight year, the Canadian team, which doesn’t often train together, was united for the first of two World Cup meets in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, to clinch another World Cup overall championship in women’s team pursuit.
Canada won all three of the women’s team pursuit tests this season, including the final one in Poland in three minutes and 0.97 seconds, which left them 0.77 seconds ahead of The Netherlands.
During the past three World Cup seasons, Canada also won three straight races in 2021-22 and two in the shortened 2020-21 campaign. As well, Canada won the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games gold medal in that time frame. Its only loss in the past three years was to The Netherlands at the 2021 world championships.
“The three of us have skated together so long and our strategy slightly changes here and there, but mostly stays the same,” said Blondin, who trains with the Canadian men’s team, while Weidemann practises with the women’s quad and Maltais works out at the new Quebec City oval.
Weidemann was thrilled the team pursuit squad produced yet another undefeated season.
“It’s a few years in a row now that we have been able to bring home the overall title, which we are proud of as a team,” she said. “We have one more race at the world championships and obviously that is the big one.”
The world long-track speed skating championships are set for March 2-5 in Heerenveen, The Netherlands.
“We felt smooth and powerful today, but there are always things to work on and we are missing a bit of speed,” Weidemann continued. “So, we are hoping to rest over the next few weeks and go into the world championships stronger and a little big more snappy.”
Weidemann’s weekend of skating in Poland also included a fifth-place showing in the women’s 3,000 metres. She finished in 4:08.91, which was 2.95 seconds off the winning mark.
Blondin earned a second World Cup medal, when she was second in the mass start in 9:34.47. The Netherlands’ Marijkie Groenewoud won in 9:34.23, but Blondin needed to hold off Mia Kilburg of the United States, 9:34.61, and Laura Peveri of Italy, 9:34.64, in the sprint to the finish for the silver medal.
Continuing to race a minimum of six times in each World Cup stop this season, Blondin also was seventh in the 1,500 metres in 1:15.92, eighth over 3,000 metres in 4:13.16 and 11th in the 1,000 metres in 1:18.21.
“I was just trying to get myself to the finish line,” Blondin said about her final race, the mass start. “It has been a long weekend for me as always. I’ll be tapering it back next weekend because obviously it’s a lot.
“I don’t think I’ll be racing the 1,000 (this) week, so that’s a little easier on me. But I will skate the team sprint because it’s such a fun event.”
SKIERS KNOW HOW TO WIN MEDALS AT ONTARIO WINTER GAMES
Ottawa skiers, whether they competed in alpine, cross-country or biathlon, raced their way to the medal podium in large numbers as the Ontario Winter Games concluded Sunday in Renfrew County.
Cross-country skiers representing Nakkertok Nordic led the local medal parade, capturing 13 medals – four gold, six silver and three bronze. The biathletes from Kanata Nordic combined sharp shooting and fast skiing for six gold and two silver, while the alpine skiers from Calabogie Peaks and Camp Fortune had one gold, two silver and two bronze.
Evelyn Davies and Owen Siderius scored three medals apiece in the U16 age group. Davies was a double gold medallist with wins in the one-kilometre sprint and five-kilometre interval classic, while Siderius was the sprint silver medallist and took bronze in the classic. Davies and Siderius also combined to win silver in the team sprint relay.
Levi Sankey won the boys’ U16 sprint and was second in the five-kilometre race. Nathaniel Storer was the boys’ U14 sprint champion and third in the classic race.
Ella Semeniuk skied to a pair of silver medals in the girls’ U14 class in the sprint and classic races. Bronwyn Parker was the girls’ U16 sprint silver medallist and the classic race bronze medal winner.
Allison Niedre, Sofia Yurack and Rohen Bartlett were double gold-medal champions for Kanata Nordic.
Niedre was the girls’ senior 7.5-kilometre mass-start winner and first in the six-kilometre pursuit. Yurack and Bartlett were the respective junior girls’ and junior boys’ winners in the same two races.
Leah Rose Stephens was a double silver medallist in the two girls’ junior races.
Competing on their home hill, Calabogie Peaks alpine skiers swept the medals in the women’s giant slalom – Kate Cameron (gold), Emma Goudreault (silver) and Nicole Duff (bronze).
The region’s other two medals came in the men’s slalom, when Leo Kristar-Polci of Fortune was second and Logan Maclellan of Calabogie Peak took third.
Noah Tourangeau of the National Capital Wrestling Club won the boys’ 65-kilogram class gold medal. He also competed in the 70-kilogram division.
Mason Emrad Pathway of Ottawa was the boys’ 45-kilogram bronze medallist.
The Ottawa Valley (Region 8) team of Jean-Felix Gorley, Blake Dopson, Kyla Wallace, Crystal Brighton and Riley Rose won the gold medal in the mixed team competition at the Merivale Bowling lanes.
They posted 57.5 points and won their division by 11 points over Region 2. Matt Wallace was the team coach.
The women’s team silver medal went to Region 8’s Sophia Dorie, Chloe Russell, Cate Collins, Faith Hayden, Alexa Russell and coach Frank Ladouceur.
UNDEFEATED WEEKEND FOR RAVENS, GEE-GEES’ BASKETBALL TEAMS
The Carleton University Ravens and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s and women’s basketball programs entered the final week of the OUA regular season with a perfect 8-0 record on the weekend.
After the Ravens turned back the Gee-Gees in the Capital Hoops Classic men’s and women’s games at The Arena at TD Place, the two highly-ranked universities will meet for a second time on Wednesday at Carleton.
The No. 1-ranked Ravens men’s team will wrap up their regular season Saturday with a trip to Lakehead University.
The Ravens had good offence from four different players as they defeated Laurentian Voyageurs 88-66 and Nipissing Lakers 91-61.
Aiden Warnholtz, who hit six of 10 field-goal attempts including four three-pointers, had 18 points and nine assists against Laurentian. Chipping in with 14 points each were Connor Vreeken and Grant Shephard, who added eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Marjok Okado came off the bench to pace the Ravens against Nipissing with 22 points in 26 minutes, both seasonal-bests, while Shephard added 18 points and six rebounds.
The Gee-Gees’ men’s squad, which is ranked No. 3, also had little difficulty in its final regular-season weekend, defeating Nipissing 81-62 and Laurentian 100-67.
Brock and Cole Newton counted 16 points and 15 points respectively as the Gee-Gees’ men’s side turned back Nipissing. Cole Newton also had nine rebounds. In the win against Laurentian, Jacques-Melanie Guemeta had 18 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes, while Brock Newton hit seven of his nine shots from the field for 16 points.
The No. 2-ranked Carleton women’s basketball team stormed past Laurentian 62-44 and Nipissing 90-42.
Kali Pocrnic had a game-high 19 points along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals against Laurentian. The Ravens had six players in double figures for scoring against Nipissing as Kyana Jade Poulin tossed in 13 points and added three steals.
Jacqueline Urban, the No. 2 OUA rebounder at 11.1 a game, recorded nine rebounds and 13 points against the Voyageurs and 17 rebounds and 17 points against the Lakers.
The Gee-Gees women’s team, which was ranked No. 1 only a few weeks ago but has dropped to No. 10, boosted its confidence by defeating Nipissing 80-60 and Laurentian 76-43.
Emily Payne had 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots against Nipissing, while Alana Renon and Natsuki Szczokin contributed 12 points each. Szczokin also added seven steals, five assists and three defensive rebounds.
Szczokin was the backbone of the Gee-Gees’ decision over Laurentian, scoring a game-high 27 points and registering eight rebounds, while Oksana Gouchie-Provencher had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
HAT TRICK FOR GEE-GEES’ ALYSSA BIESENTHAL
Alyssa Biesenthal had a weekend to remember for the University of Ottawa women’s hockey team as the Gee-Gees defeated Carleton University Ravens 4-3, but lost to Concordia University Stingers 3-1 in RSEQ action.
Biesenthal scored three goals for the Gee-Gees in the win over the Ravens, while Abygail Moloughney brought her team-leading point total to 26 with a pair of assists. Lanie Guimond had two goals for the Ravens.
On Sunday, the Ravens needed overtime to edge McGill University Redbirds 3-2.
In OUA men’s action, Carleton finished its OUA East Division regular season in fourth place with a 4-0 win over Nipissing University Lakers. Aaron Boyd, who was part of the Ravens’ tribute to seniors game, led his team with two goals.
The Ravens will open the playoffs with a series against Ontario Tech.
CARLETON’S CAM TEASDALE EARNS OUA SWIMMING MEDAL
Cam Teasdale, a third-year computer science student, was the lone medal winner for the Carleton University Ravens at the OUA swimming championships.
He placed third in the men’s 50-metre breaststroke, which was a repeat of his result from the 2022 provincials.
The Ravens placed seventh in the men’s point standings, while the women’s team was eighth in the 10-university competition.
Hugo Lemesle was the standout athlete for the University of Ottawa at the recent RSEQ swimming championships as the Gee-Gees were second in the men’s point standings as well as overall.
Lemesle, who is from Nice, France, had a program-tying six medals from gold in the 100- and 200-metre breaststroke plus two relays, a silver in the 4×100-metre medley relays and a bronze in the 50-metre breaststroke.
Allen Zhang also had two gold and three silver medals for the Gee-Gees. Lauren Shearer (one gold, one silver and one bronze) and Shaunna Walker-DeJong (one silver and two bronze) sparked the women’s team.
LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
· Carleton University Ravens had a successful debut at the OUA wrestling championships as Ziad Saif El Nasr won the men’s 61-kilogram title and Jess Hong, women’s 50 kilograms, and Samey Al Beajan, men’s 76 kilograms, were bronze medallists.
· Quebec champion Raphael Tremblay of Club des Collines in Chelsea gave up six in the sixth end and lost 8-6 to Manitoba’s Jace Freeman in the opening round of the playoffs at the Canadian U18 curling championships in Timmins. Tremblay was third in his pool at 4-2. Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club’s Nicholas Rowe lost his playoff match 7-5 to Nova Scotia’s Nick Mosher, the eventual silver medallist. Rowe was 3-3 in preliminary pool play. In the women’s competition, Ontario champion Katrina Frlan of the Huntley Curling Club and Emilie Padbury of Ottawa Hunt missed the playoffs with respective pool records of 2-4 and 3-3.
· Gatineau riders won three medals at the Canadian Esports cycling championships – Laura Perry (masters women 35-44, gold), Marc-Andre Faucher (masters men 35-44, silver) and Henrique Martins (men’s junior, bronze). Perth’s Nevin Warner was the men’s U17 silver medallist.
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.
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