Bloeman, Blondin top Canadians at all-round speedskating championships

By The Canadian Press
March 2, 2019 - 7:45pm

CALGARY — Canadians Ted-Jan Bloeman and Ivanie Blondin were tied for sixth halfway through the world all-round speedskating championships on Saturday at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.

Bloemen followed up a 19th place finish in the 500 metres by finishing fifth in the 5,000 metres. In the women's competition, Blondin was 10th in the 500 metres and ninth in the 3,000 metres.

The competition wraps up on Sunday with the 1,500 and 10,000 metres for the men and the 1,500 and 5,000 metres for the women.

Skaters earn points based on their time in each race and a combined total is used to crown the all-round champions.

Highlighting the day for Canada was two superb single distance performances.

Winning the 500 metres with a new personal best of 35.53 was 26-year-old Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu. It shattered his personal best set over seven years ago as a junior.

"I couldn't expect more than that," said the native of Sherbrooke, Quebec, with a smile. "It's a great feeling to be out there and to have a really good race to be on top of the podium."

He topped his personal best by over a half-second, which was set back in 2012 as a junior.

Shortly after, he disappeared from the sport for four years, the result of injuries and illness that sapped his desire to skate.

"I did so much competition. Short track, long track. Was doing junior selection and senior selection so I had 30 competitions during the year. I just had so much," said Gelinas-Beaulieu.

"I tried to come back, but it wasn't really there, the passion anymore, so I was like lets put that away for a moment and see if it comes back."

That's exactly what he did. Four years later, turned out the time was right to return to competition.

"I started coaching again and the first time I put my skates on, I was like OK, I need to come back to this sport. It just felt like it was the right thing to do. I felt the passion again."

After just missing out on qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, his sights are set squarely on the 2022 Games in Beijing.

"It was a big thing to be up there and be at the same calibre of all the other guys that went to the Olympics," said Gelinas-Beaulieu. "It's going super well this year, too. If I keep going in that direction, I can hit the next Olympics."

Gelinas-Beaulieu is 20th in the overall after the first day. Toronto's Jordan Belchos is 16th.

The other top-three finish came from Isabelle Weidemann in the 3,000 metres, who set a new personal best of 3:58.51.

"Didn't have a lot of expectations for the all-round because I'm not a great sprinter and a lot of the all-round is based on sprints, so I am coming in with a little bit of a handicap," said Weidemann, an Ottawa native now living in Calgary.

Participating in her first all-round competition, Weidemann, 23, sits 12th overall. Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., is 17th.

"Taking each event out of the all-round and using it as an opportunity to race at a world event has been really awesome," says Weidemann, who in a breakout season ranks third in the long-distance World Cup standings with one competition remaining, next weekend in Salt Lake City.

The most recent overall podium finish at the all-round championships was earned by Christine Nesbitt, who won bronze in 2012. Nesbitt was on hand on Saturday as she was inducted into the Olympic Oval's Hall of Champions. Her banner will be added to a row that boasts Canadian greats such as Clara Hughes, Jeremy Wotherspoon, Susan Auch and Catriona Le May Doan.

"For me, all the skaters, the men and the women up there, they're the generation above me. I came up in the system right as they were champions and they really paved the way for me," said Nesbitt, who now lives in Vancouver where she is pursuing her Masters. "They're athletes that I looked up to and that I took inspiration from and that I learned from, so to be able to share that space with them for the rest of my life and maybe forever, it's an incredible honour."

The all-round leader ahead of the second day of competition is defending champion Patrick Roest from the Netherlands. Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen is second. On the women's side, Japan's Miho Takagi is in top spot. On her heels is Czech Martina Sablíkova, who set a world record in the 3,000 metres at 3:53.31, shaving three-hundreths off the previous record that had been owned by Canada's Cindy Klassen since 2006.

Darren Haynes , The Canadian Press

Crosby, Guentzel have four points apiece to power Penguins past Canadiens 5-1