Two Ottawa-raised long track speed skaters have left for their first Olympics, preparing together as they have for much of their careers.
Ivanie Blondin, 23, and 19-year-old Vincent De Haître headed to Germany on Saturday to let their bodies adjust to the time difference between Sochi and Calgary, where they’ve been training.
Both will be making their Olympic debut in a few weeks, realizing a lifelong dream that started with the Gloucester Concordes skating club in Ottawa’s east end.
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“It feels pretty unreal,” said De Haître.
“To make it this young and this soon, I feel like I’m on the right track and I want to keep it going.”
“I feel as though being one of the younger skaters and it being my first Olympics, I really want to absorb everything and take it in as more of an experience,” Blondin said.
The pair have trained together throughout their lives, with Blondin saying she feels like his older sister at times.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Blondin said.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to share the experience, not only with teammates but someone I grew up with.”
“When she moved away (to Montreal) for short track, she’d come back every now and then wearing a Canada suit,” De Haître said.
“It was always motivating to see that when you go out, you can come back… that’s always something I’ve wanted to do, to help out others."
De Haître said he didn’t even have his sights set on qualifying for Sochi, thinking about the 2018 Games in South Korea instead.
He’s the youngest speed skater on Team Canada.
Coach convinced Blondin not to quit
Both skaters trained under coach Mike Rivet in Gloucester while younger.
“These two had that uncanny ability to push and forge through… that’s why they’re at the Olympics today” he said.
“It’s the mental fortitude, the will to win and the will to persevere and work as hard as they can to get to where they want to go.”
Blondin said she is crediting him for encouraging her to switch from short track to long track after she didn’t qualify in 2010.
"I was ready to quit skating because I was just so discouraged and disappointed with it,” she said.
"I think (the switch) was the best decision I could have ever made.”
Sacrifices pay off for families
While none of their parents are making the trip to Russia, they said they have big parties planned for when their kids are racing.
They said years of travel, early mornings and family sacrifices have all paid off.
"You have this overwhelming pride, you get teary eyed over it,” said Dennis De Haître.
“All her friends and family are jumping for joy, it’s really exciting,” said Bob Blondin.
Blondin will be competing in the 3,000 metre, 5,000 metre and team pursuit races, while De Haitre will race the 1,000 and 1,500 metre events.