Ivanie Blondin Canada's best hope at world allround championships
Canadians, better at sprints, face tough challenge from Czechs, Dutch
This weekend's world allround championships in Berlin have history like no other in the world of speed skating. The event has been contested since 1893 for the men and 1936 for the women.
Over the years, the Netherlands have dominated with 48 titles, followed by Norway with 38. Canada has won four times, all by skaters from Winnipeg: J.K.(Jack) McCullough back in 1897, Sylvia Burka in 1976, and more recently Cindy Klassen in 2003 and 2006.
The allround championships are much different than the recently completed sprints championships. The distances cover 500 metres, 1,500m, 3,000m, and 5,000m for women. The men skate the 500m, 1,500m, 5,000m, and 10,000m. Only the top eight overall after the first three distances qualify for the final and longest distance.
CBCSports.ca begins its live streaming coverage on Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET and continues on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET.
Canada's Ivanie Blondin won the world single distance title in the mass start, her specialty, on Feb. 14, but this event won't be part of the competition in Berlin. So she will have to rely on three great races in the shorter distances in order to qualify for the 5,000m. Her goal is to have a top-eight finish.
The favourite for the overall title would have to be the Czech Republic's Martina Sablikova. She is the 2015 world champion and despite her struggles in the 500m, she is such a force in the longer distances.
However, don't discount great Dutch skater Irene Wust, who missed the earlier part of the season due to a concussion, but has been skating well in the last month.
Sven Kramer remains top man
On the men's side, Sven Kramer of the Netherlands remains the competitor to beat. He is the reigning world champion and has won seven allround titles in total.
The lone Canadian man to watch is Ted-Jan Bloemen. He broke onto the international scene this season with a victory and a world record in the 10,000.
Still, the shorter distances are not his specialty. If he wants to have a chance to even skate in the 10k, he will need some great performances early on. At last year's championships, which took place in Calgary, Bloemen was 16th overall.
It isn't the fast and furious of the sprints, but this event brings out prestige and tradition that skaters will fight for this weekend in Berlin.