Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Canada's Blondin, Weidemann, Maltais revive speedskating tradition

CALGARY — Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann are accustomed to observations about their height differential. Weidemann is a foot taller than her five-foot-two teammate on Canada's speedskating squad.

CALGARY — Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann are accustomed to observations about their height differential.

Weidemann is a foot taller than her five-foot-two teammate on Canada's speedskating squad. The contrast is pronounced when they toe the start line together to race team pursuit.

"We get quite a few comments," Blondin acknowledged.

Their variation in body type is a challenge they've strategized around to win World Cup medals this season.

Ottawa's Blondin and Weidemann and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., became the first Canadian women to claim a World Cup title in team pursuit since 2012.

The trio went three-for-three in podiums including a victory in Kazakhstan in December.

Pursuit in speedskating is similar to track cycling. Two teams of three skaters start on opposite sides of the oval.

The clock stops when the third skater crosses the finish line. Aerodynamics and skating smoothly together as a unit is key.

The skater at the front provides a draft for her two teammates. They'll change position during the six laps to maximize power.

"Most teams that you see in team pursuit are kind of the same height, same body type," Blondin explained. "It's definitely a bit of an advantage to have everyone the same size.

"If you have someone like Izzy who is taller and can't get as low as I can in the front, she's catching more air when she's at the back.

"It's not as aerodynamic as a team, but because we're so strong individually and because of the way we formulate our races, we've got it down to a science to be able to perform on the international stage given our difficulties with size."

Maltais, who switched from short track to long track less than two years ago, is in the middle of her teammates. She stands 5-5. 

"Even though we don't have on paper what they would say is the most aerodynamic team, I think we make it look good," she said.

The three women are chasing Canada's first world pursuit title since 2011 on Feb. 14 at the world single distance championship in Salt Lake City.

Before that, they'll compete for hardware in individual races on home ice at the Calgary World Cup on Friday and Saturday.

The three are entered in Friday's 3,000 and 1,500 metres.

Blondin and Weidemann rank second and third in the world in the 3K behind Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic.

Blondin is working on a career season with 10 World Cup medals, including six gold across multiple distances.

"I really want to focus on the team pursuit. I do believe we're one of the best teams in the world and we've proven that this year," she said. 

"At the next Olympics, that's definitely going to be one of our goals."

Roughly 200 athletes from 20 countries will compete in the 500, 1,000, 1,500, women's 3K and men's 5K at the Olympic Oval.

Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen, winner of Olympic gold and silver in the 10K and 5K respectively in 2018, races the men's 5K Saturday.

Blondin and Maltais, both 29, and 24-year-old Weidemann are reviving a Canadian tradition of strength in women's pursuit.

Led by Christine Nesbitt, Kristina Groves, Cindy Klassen, Brittany Schussler and Shannon Rempel, Canada won world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Groves, Nesbitt and Schussler set a world record at the Calgary oval in 2009 that endured for almost eight years.

When pursuit made its Olympic debut in 2006, Groves, Nesbitt and Clara Hughes raced the final to claim silver.

Blondin, Weidemann and Josie Morrison finished fourth in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"It's taken us a long time to get back to where those women were," Weidemann said. "We're trying to build up the tradition again."

Maltais earned multiple world championship medals and an Olympic relay silver in short track before opting for the longer blades.

"When I moved to long track, team pursuit was the main event I wanted to be part of," Maltais said. "I'd always done relay in short track and I love the team bonding.

"Ivanie and Izzy are the two best skaters in the long distances in the world and I'm making it close to the top 10 every time. I'm getting better every time I race and racing with those girls makes me confident."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2020.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks