Valérie Maltais and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu finish just off the Mass Start podium in fourth place
OBIHIRO, JAPAN – It was a golden start to the 2023-24 international season for Canada’s Ivanie Blondin, who captured gold in the Mass Start at the first ISU World Cup Speed Skating stop of the campaign in Obihiro, Japan.
Blondin earned a decisive victory in a time of 8:25.11, defeating Esther Kiel of the Netherlands and Mia Kilburg-Manganello of the United States in a sprint to the finish line. Teammate Valérie Maltais, who captured her first World Cup medal in the Mass Start last season in Poland, finished just outside of medal contention in fourth place (8:26.05).
Blondin (Ottawa, Ont.) and Maltais (La Baie, Que.) helped the 22-skater field track down race leader Laura Lorenzato during the final lap, dashing the Italian’s hopes of racing away with the win after breaking away from the pack with four laps remaining. Maltais launched the final sprint, but was overtaken by the three eventual medalists.
The win marked a return to the podium for the Blondin following a successful 2022-23 season in which she won the World Cup title and brought home a silver medal from the World Championships. It was also the 33-year-old’s second career Mass Start medal from Obihiro, having previously won gold in 2014.
On the men’s side, Sherbrooke’s Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu narrowly missed the podium in his return to the Mass Start. After not competing in the discipline internationally last season, the 31-year-old crossed the finish line in fourth place, his time of 7:46.22 placing him just behind medalists Bart Hoolwerf of the Netherlands (7:45.78), Bart Swings of Belgium (7:45.80) and Livio Wenger of Switzerland (7:45.81).
Canadian sprinters also competed in the 500m and 1000m during the opening day of races in Japan, earning a pair of top-10 results.
Laurent Dubreuil (Lévis, Que.) was seventh in the men’s 500m with a time of 35.08, only 0.56 seconds off a podium occupied by the Japanese trio of Tatsuya Shinhama (34.52), Wataru Morishige (+0.17) and Yuma Murakami (+0.30).
Blondin also earned a seventh-place finish, posting a time of 1:15.91 in the women’s 1000m to finish +1.34 behind gold medalist and reigning World Champion Jutta Leerdam of the Netherlands (1:14.57).
The ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Obihiro continues tomorrow with the women’s 500m-2, 1500m and Team Pursuit, as well as the men’s 1500m and Team Pursuit. Races can be watched live on CBC Sports digital platforms, including CBCSports.ca and the CBC Gem app.
“I wasn’t quite sure how I would do because we haven’t raced in quite some time, but the speed was there, and I was really happy with it. Near the end, I just went for it. I knew I could have a good result based on how my 1000m went earlier in the day. From a strategy perspective, Valérie and I were covering for each other to make sure there were no big break-aways. I think it would have been great if both Canadians were on the podium in the end. Valérie was fourth, so we’re not far off from having that happen.”
“I’m happy with how I raced today’s Mass Start. I made a few tactical errors, especially near the end. I realized that I have more speed than last season and that has an impact on the way that I launch my end of race sprint. I’ll be able to adjust for next weekend. I’m happy that this might be able to bring me onto the podium. I was close today, but I was the one that launched the sprint and that made things a bit easier for the other girls behind me.”
- Brooklyn Mcdougall: 16th
- Carolina Hiller: 18th
- Maddison Pearman: 14th (Division B)
- Laurent Dubreuil: 7th
- Joshua Telizyn: 19th
- Anders Johnson: 10th (Division B)
- Ivanie Blondin: 7th
- Béatrice Lamarche: 9th (Division B)
- Maddison Pearman: 6th (Division B)
- Vincent De Haitre: 11th
- Connor Howe: 16th
- Laurent Dubreuil: 18th
- David La Rue: 5th (Division B)
- Ivanie Blondin: 1st
- Valérie Maltais: 4th
- Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu: 4th
- Connor Howe: 20th