Canada sets Olympic record en route to speed skating gold medal in women's team pursuit
Ottawa's Isabelle Weidemann collects her 3rd medal in Beijing
Canada's Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais set a new Olympic record to win the gold medal in women's team pursuit in long track speed skating in Beijing.
The Canadians beat defending Olympic champion Japan's Ayano Sato, Miho Tagaki and Nana Tagaki in Tuesday's dramatic final at the National Speed Skating Oval. Canada posted a time of two minutes and 53.44 seconds, while Japan finished in 3.04.47.
Japan enjoyed a slender lead with a half lap to go but Nana Takagi lost her balance coming through the final turn and crashed into the padding, allowing Canada to cruise to the win. Takagi was in tears after crossing the finish line, and was immediately consoled by her sister Miho Takagi and Sato.
"We are still thinking, is this real? We knew we had a strong team, we knew we could put pressure on Japan and all the other strong teams today. I don't know if we'd thought about this possible outcome," Weidemann said.
Weidemann, a 26-year-old from Ottawa, leads all Canadian athletes in medals at the 2022 Olympics, having previously won the individual silver and bronze in the 5,000m and 3,000m. She becomes only the third Canadian long track speedskater to win more than two medals at a single Olympics. Gaéten Boucher won three in Sarajevo in 1984, and Cindy Klassen won five in 2006 in Turin, Italy.
WATCH NOW: Canadian women claim 1st ever Olympic gold in team pursuit:
This is the first time that Canada has won an Olympic gold in women's team pursuit. Canada previously won silver in the event when it made its Olympic debut at the 2006 Games.
Overall, Canada now has 17 medals in Beijing: two gold, four silver and 11 bronze.
"It feels really surreal right now. There is such high emotion. Going into the race we wanted to make ourselves proud. We didn't want to put pressure on ourselves, it is a privilege to be in this final. Coming across the line, I just couldn't believe it," Maltas said.
Blondin added: "I don't even know what the medal means to me at this point. It's everything we've worked towards for the last four years."
WATCH | Canadian skaters receive gold medals for women's team pursuit:
The Japanese team set a new Olympic record last weekend during the quarter-finals by clocking in at 2:53.61.
The Canadians beat the Netherlands' Ireen Wust, Irene Schouten and Antoinette de Jong in the semifinals earlier on Tuesday, while Japan cruised to victory over the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
Canada was aiming for an Olympic gold medal in Beijing after losing to the Netherlands in the finals of last year's world championships.
Tuesday's gold medal also comes in the aftermath of the Canadian team completing a perfect 2021-22 World Cup season that saw them win all three races.
Also on Tuesday, the Netherlands beat ROC to take the bronze medal in the women's team pursuit.
Earlier this week, Canada finished fifth in the men's team pursuit with a time of three minutes 40.18 seconds, failing to qualify for the semifinal round.
WATCH | Team pursuit is the excitement of speed skating multiplied by three: