Canadian speedskaters Blondin, Dubreuil earn World Cup silver

HEERENVEEN, Netherlands — Ottawa speedskater Ivanie Blondin claimed a World Cup silver medal in the women's mass start Saturday in a tight finish with reigning Olympic champion Irene Schouten of the Netherlands.

Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., also earned a silver medal in the men's 500 metres.

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Schouten and Blondin finished one-two for a second straight week with Schouten edging Blondin by a toe in Heerenveen.

The 16-lap mass start features the short-track elements of all competitors taking off simultaneously from the start line and skaters jostling for position throughout the race.

"It was a spicy one today," Blondin said. "The girls were feisty out there, which makes it a fun race for me because I get pumped when that happens.

"I had a good race, but near the finish I stumbled a little bit. I think if that would not have happed, I could have beat Schouten at the line because I had much more speed, but those things happen."

Italy's Francesca Lollobrigida was disqualified from third place, which went to Elizaveta Golubeva of Russia.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has shrunk the World Cup speedskating season to two events in Heerenveen ahead of the Feb. 11-14 world championship at the same oval.

Canada's long-track speedskating team has been without ice in its national training centre at Calgary's Olympic Oval since Sept. 5 because of a mechanical failure.

"I’m still getting use to skating at speed again," said Blondin, who is the reigning world champion in the mass start.

"It’s taken me a little longer to get the feel of going fast back, but I’m happy with the silver and being on the podium again is more than thought I could do."

Dubreuil was second in the men's 500 for the second time in as many weeks posting a time of 34.520 seconds behind winner Pavel Kulizhnikov of Russia in 34.475.

"It was a great race, but again it wasn't a perfect race," Dubreuil said.

"I made a few small mistakes, but I cannot be mad about finishing second with a 34.52. It's super good and it's encouraging for my next races."

Kulizhnikov's teammate Artem Arefyev and Dai Dai Ntab of the Netherlands tied for third with identical times of 34.588.

Dutchwoman Femke Kok took the women's 500 metres.

Winnipeg's Heather McLean placed fifth just under three-tenths of a second off the podium.

Dutch men swept the men's 1,500 metres with Thomas Krol, Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest finishing first to third respectively.

Connor Howe of Canmore, Alta., placed seventh.

Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma won the men's mass start ahead of runner-up Bart Swings of Germany and bronze medallist Livio Wenger of Switzerland.

Toronto's Jordan Belchos was eighth.

American Brittany Bowe took the women's 1,500 metres with Antoinette de Jong and Ireen Wust of the Netherlands second and third respectively.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2021.

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