Weidemann, Maltais and Blondin reach podium in first Team Pursuit of the season
OBIHIRO, JAPAN – The Canadian women earned silver in the Team Pursuit at the season opening ISU World Cup Speed Skating competition in Obihiro.
After finishing last season by claiming their long-awaited World Championship title, the trio of Isabelle Weidemann, Valérie Maltais and Ivanie Blondin captured silver on Saturday, only 1.22 seconds behind the hometown gold medalists from Japan.
Racing in the final pair against their Dutch rivals, the Canadians charged back after a slow start thanks to consistent lap times, finishing the distance in 2:59.25. The Japanese grabbed gold (2:58.03), while the Netherlands earned bronze (3:01.29).
The silver medal was Canada’s first on the World Cup stage since 2019 in Nagano. The reigning Olympic Champions had previously won eight consecutive World Cup gold medals and four straight World Cup titles since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
Reaching the podium in this weekend’s World Cup opener was made even more special given that the Canadian team was utilizing a unique new strategy for the very first time in international competition, ditching the traditional in-race exchanges and opting instead to have a single skater – Maltais in this particular case – lead the group from start to finish.
A dozen other Canadian skaters were also in action on Saturday.
The Canadian men’s squad of Connor Howe, David La Rue and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu finished sixth in their Team Pursuit with a time of 3:45.29, while Maltais earned the top result in an individual distance, finishing 10th in the 1500m (1:57.76).
The ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Obihiro comes to an even Sunday with the women’s 3000m, as well as the men’s 500m-2 and 5000m. Races can be watched live on CBC Sports digital platforms, including CBCSports.ca and the CBC Gem app.
“We’re pretty stoked! It was our first time trying this new strategy where we don’t exchange, so we weren’t super sure what to expect. We were very nervous to go out and try something new, but we’re very happy with today’s result. We felt very powerful and stayed in-synch very well. We’ve often struggled off the start, myself especially because I’m a little slower, but we nailed that aspect of it today. We’re happy to get this first one done and are looking forward to improving for the next one. The Japanese have a great team, and we have a one-second gap to close on them, so a few weeks of training and perfecting the strategy will hopefully help us push for the top of the podium again.”
- Brooklyn McDougall: 20th
- Carolina Hiller: 3rd (Division B)
- Maddison Pearman: 15th (Division B)
- Valérie Maltais: 10th
- Ivanie Blondin: 11th
- Isabelle Weidemann: 14th
- Maddison Pearman: 4th (Division B)
- Béatrice Lamarche: 7th (Division B)
- David La Rue: 14th
- Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu: 18th
- Connor Howe: 19th
- Vincent De Haître: 8th (Division B)
- Women’s: 2nd
- Men’s: 6th