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Canada wins big at speed skating World Cup

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, November 17, 2015 —

Canada’s long track speed skating team made a stellar international debut this past weekend at the first portion of the International Skating Union World Cup Championships. The Olympic Oval hosted the event, defending its title of the fastest ice in the world amidst a weekend of new records. A Canadian record in the 5000 metre, podium finishes in the men’s 500 metre and team events, as well as a bronze medal in the mass start were just a sliver of the success that defined the weekend for Team Canada.

But Canada’s greatest success came in the 500 metre, where sprinter William Dutton finished with a bronze in the first portion of the race and silver in the second, marking his triumphant return to long track speed skating.

This is Dutton’s first year back in the sport after his brief retirement following the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. Two years ago, he placed 14th in the overall men’s 500 metre in Russia. His placement in the top three this weekend marked a considerable leap forward in international rankings, along with his first World Cup medals.

The skill of Team Canada’s sprint team was on display this weekend, as four Canadian men’s skaters placed in the top six during the 500-metre event. In the women’s events, Canada’s Heather McLean and Marsha Hudey also had competitive placements, with times just under two seconds shy of the top sprint position.

It marks an exciting return for Canadian long track sprinting since the glory days of Catriona Le May Doan and Jeremy Wotherspoon. Although Wotherspoon’s world record was defeated this weekend by Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov, the Canadian men’s times were all within half a second of the top spot.

Canada has always been strong in speed skating team events, and they defended their legacy this past weekend. Denny Morrison’s position on the men’s team was filled by newcomer Ben Donnelly, skating in his first ever World Cup event.

The show went on without three-time Olympic medalist Morrison, who is still in rehabilitation after sustaining an injury in a major motorcycle accident this summer.

In a performance that shocked the venue, the men’s team ended up placing first in the event, taking home a gold medal with a time of 3.39,32 minutes. It was an outstanding performance for the 19-year-old Donnelly, as well as teammates Ted-Jan Bloemen and Jordan Belchos.

The success continued in the women’s event, with Canada pulling another bronze medal in the team sprint. Sprinters Heather McLean, Marsha Hudey and Noemie Fiset raced to a third place finish with a time of 1.28,39 minutes.

Bloemen also skated to a new Canadian record in the men’s 5,000-metre event on Friday, securing another bronze medal. The record had previously been held by Arne Dankers whose time of 6.14,01 hasn’t been touched since 2005. Bloemen skated a time of 6.12,72.

Canada’s mass start World Cup Champion Ivanie Blondin rounded out the success of the weekend with a bronze medal in the mass start competition. The mass start is an event new to long track speed skating. It will debut on the Winter Olympic stage at Pyeongchang in 2018.

Other stories of the weekend included two new world records set in the women’s events by the USA’s Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe. Richardson’s 1,000-metre skate on Saturday set a new world record of 1.12,51 minutes, followed closely by Bowe. On Sunday, Bowe skated to an impressive 1.51,59 minutes, just clipping the previous record of 1.51,79 which has been held since 2005.

After skating the record, Bowe referenced the success of her Canadian predecessor.

“To claim that world record is such an honour,” she said after the race. “Cindy Klassen — she’s a legend.”

The World Cup circuit will continue in Salt Lake City, Utah from November 20–22. Afterwards, Team Canada will send its athletes to Europe, where they will compete for top world titles before returning to the Oval later this winter.

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