By Riley Stovka, February 25 2022—
Isabelle Weidemann, a natural sciences student at the University of Calgary, is now Canada’s most decorated athlete from the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Weidemann, a long track speed skater from Ottawa is competing in her second winter olympics. She placed third in the women’s 3000m, then followed that up with a silver medal in the women’s 5000m, all before ending her Olympic run in record fashion.
Weidemann and her team pursuit comrades, Ivanie Blondin and Valerie Maltais, set an Olympic record for team pursuit at two minutes and 53.44 seconds, as they beat the second-place Japanese team.
As the two teams raced around the final turn, Japan enjoyed a small lead before skater Nana Tagaki lost her balance and went crashing into the padded wall. Japan ended up finishing the race in three minutes and four seconds.
Not only was a new Olympic record set as Weidemann and company crossed the finish line, but a great personal achievement was made as well. Weidemann now becomes just the second athlete in Canadian history to win a gold, silver and bronze at the same Winter Olympics — joining fellow long-track speedskater, Cindy Klassen, who did so at the 2006 games in Torino, Italy. (Klassen won five medals at those games, one gold, two silver and two bronze).
Weidemann, Blondin and Maltais have been a formidable team this year, winning all three World Cup races they competed in leading up to these games. At the 2018 Pyeongchang games, Weidemann, Blondin and former teammate Josie Morrison, placed fourth in the team pursuit.
With the win in the team pursuit, Weidemann now leads all Canadian athletes with three medals and is just the second Canadian to win gold at Beijing. Six of the 17 medals won at these Olympics have been won by speed skaters, three by long track and three by short track.
This particular pattern of speed skating domination is nothing new for team Canada. Headquartered out of the Olympic Oval on our very own campus, speed skaters are by far and away this country’s most decorated Olympians. Heading into these games, 37 medals have been won in speed skating, more than any other sport that Canada competes in.
The rate at which Canada produces world class speed skaters is pretty remarkable and it should come as no surprise then, that most of these skaters call Calgary home and have deep connections to our university. Weidemann and nine other members of Canada’s Olympic speed skating team are either former or current students at the University of Calgary, which is most definitely a product of having the greatest (self proclaimed) ice surface ever made in the middle of campus.
The expertise of the ice making members at the Olympic Oval is legendary and their skills are highly sought after — ice maker Mark Messer and his crew are on site at the Beijing Olympics lending a hand to the skating facilities there.
U of C’s ties to Olympic speed skating are deep and the contributions that are made to the sport of speed skating is an achievement in itself. The influence of the University of Calgary and the Olympic Oval are seen almost every winter games as skaters from U of C climb the podium. This year it is Isabelle Weidemann’s turn to bask in the triumph of one of the greatest speed skating programs in the world, she’s most definitely earned it.