A world-record holder, world single distance bronze medallist and a pair of emerging stars will lead Canada’s long track speed skating team into next month’s Olympic Winter Games.
Speed Skating Canada named its 19-member (10 men, nine women) squad on Wednesday in Calgary that will compete in Pyeongchang, South Korea, led by Ted-Jan Bloemen, Ivanie Blondin, Heather McLean and Vincent De Haître, respectively.
Some skaters, including the Dutch-born Bloemen, were pre-selected to the 2018 Olympic team based on results from the first half of the World Cup season and last year’s world single distance championships.
Bloemen, who had qualified to race the 10,000 metres ahead of the just-completed Olympic trials, grabbed the lone quota spot for Canada in the 5,000 by winning the event to begin action at Calgary’s Olympic Oval on Jan. 4. On Dec. 10, the 31-year-old Calgarian set a world record in the 5,000 in a time of six minutes 1.86 seconds to erase the decade-old mark of 6:03.32 by Sven Kramer of the Netherlands.
Canadian Ted-Jan Bloemen breaks a world record in the men’s 5,000m event at the ISU speed skating World Cup with a time of 6:01.868:45
“Skating as fast as I am this season is already a dream come true for me,” Bloemen said in a statement released by Speed Skating Canada. “It’s a great honour to represent Canada at my first Olympic Games. My goal is to … make Canada proud.”
Bloemen also holds the world’s fastest time in the 10,000 at 12:36.30, which he set in 2015.
Blondin, 27, will race the women’s 3,000 and 5,000 at her second Winter Games, along with the new mass start in South Korea. The long-distance specialist prevailed in the 3,000 at trials in 4:04.31.
Last February, the Ottawa native captured her third medal at the world single distance championships with a bronze in the 5,000 at Gangneung, South Korea, site of the Olympic event.
The 27-year-old Canadian posted a time of 6:57.34 to win silver in the women’s 5000m at the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Stavanger, Norway.8:14
Blondin had only converted to long track from short track four years before her Olympic debut in Sochi, Russia, where the kayak and water skiing enthusiast finished 24th and 14th in the 3,000 and 5,000, respectively.
“At my first Olympic Games,” she said, “I felt like I was just starting out and you are always mesmerized by the grandeur of the event. I learned a lot from Sochi and now I’m more focused on the process instead of the end results. I’m focusing on being on the podium.”
McLean will try to follow in the footsteps of standout Manitobans like Susan Auch, Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen at her Winter Games debut. After qualifying for Pyeongchang with a second-place showing in the 500 at the selection meet for the long track team on Jan. 5, the 25-year-old Winnipegger won the 1,000 on Monday.
A four-time World Cup medallist, McLean has made big strides since joining the national team in 2013, with back-to-back Canadian titles in both disciplines in 2016 and 2017, but has failed to reach the podium in the 500 in any of her international races this season.
De Haître will arrive in South Korea as a medal contender in the men’s 1,000 and 1,500 after his victory in the former event at trials. The 23-year-old from Cumberland, Ont., was a silver medallist in the 1,000 and placed fourth in the 1,500 at last season’s world single distance championships.
Canadian speed skater clinches Olympic spot in the men’s 1000m.1:26
At 18, De Haître beat the odds to qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and finished 20th in the 1,000 and 33rd in the 1,500. But he’ll travel to Pyeongchang coming off a breakthrough 2016-17 campaign that included shattering Jeromy Wotherspoon’s 10-year-old Canadian record in the 1,000 (1:06.72) and silver in the 1,000 at the world single distance championships to earn De Haître second place in the overall standings.
Also named to the Canadian team Wednesday was early-season long shot Denny Morrison following his motorcycle crash in 2015 and stroke in April 2016. But the four-time Olympic medallist will compete at his fourth Winter Games after earning Canada’s only two long track medals in 2014 — silver in the 1,000 and bronze in the 1,500.
The 32-year-old Morrison, who hails from Fort St. John, B.C., earned an Olympic berth on Saturday, finishing second to De Haitre in the men’s 1,500. In December, he was part of the team pursuit that won gold at a World Cup in Salt Lake City, where Morrison was also fifth in the 1,500.
“I’ve had a lot of challenges and I feel grateful to be able to celebrate every little success since then,” said Morrison. “It’s been a humbling experience after being a medallist at each of my first three Olympic Games.
“With each small step, my goals are progressing and I’m continuing to look forward to the next big steps and furthering my progress.”
In Pyeongchang, Canada will look to add to its long track Olympic medal total of 35.
“Every one of our skaters has worked incredibly hard to qualify for this Olympic Games and I am confident they are ready and capable of continuing Speed Skating Canada’s tradition of excellence and make Canada proud,” said Auch, Speed Skating Canada CEO and a three-time Olympic speed skating medallist.
Canada’s Olympic long track team
- Ivanie Blondin, Ottawa
- Kali Christ, Regina
- Marsha Hudey, White City, Sask.
- Kaylin Irvine, Calgary
- Heather McLean, Winnipeg
- Josie Morrison, Kamloops, B.C.
- Keri Morrison, Burlington, Ont.
- Brianne Tutt, Airdrie, Alta.
- Isabelle Weidemann, Ottawa
- Jordan Belchos, Toronto
- Ted-Jan Bloemen, Calgary
- Alex Boisvert-Lacroix, Sherbrooke, Que.
- Vincent De Haître, Cumberland, Ont.
- Ben Donnelly, Oshawa, Ont.
- Laurent Dubreuil, Lévis, Que.
- Olivier Jean, Lachenaie, Que.
- Gilmore Junio, Calgary
- Denny Morrison, Fort St. John, B.C.
- Alexandre St-Jean, Quebec City
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