Canada's Ivanie Blondin skates to 2nd medal of Beijing Olympics with mass start silver

Canada's Ivanie Blondin has captured her second medal of the Beijing Olympics. The Ottawa native sped to silver in the speed skating mass start on Saturday in China. She was previously part of the trio that won the gold medal in team pursuit.

Ottawa native was previously part of team pursuit squad that won gold

Canada's Ivanie Blondin celebrates with the Canadian flag after winning the silver medal in the women's speed skating mass start on Saturday at the Beijing Olympics. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Canada's Ivanie Blondin says she doesn't "back down from a fight very easily." And the mass start — especially by long track speed skating standards — is a fight.

And so Blondin won silver in the event on Saturday at the Beijing Olympics. It was the Ottawa native's second time on the podium in China. She was previously part of the trio that earned the gold medal in team pursuit.

Dutch skater Irene Schouten won the mass start just six one-hundredths of a second ahead of Blondin, while Italy's Francesca Lollobrigida rounded out the podium with bronze.

"These races, the mass start, it fires me up," Blondin told CBC Sports' Anastasia Bucsis after the race. "I'm a little bit of a fighter and I'm very competitive, so the fact that girls were pushing me and there was a lot of jostling and pushing and shoving around just fires me up and kinda gets me going."

WATCH | Blondin skates to mass start silver:

Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin claims Olympic silver in speed skating mass start

6 months ago
Duration 14:04
Speed skater Ivanie Blondin from Ottawa wins the silver medal in the women's mass start event as she reaches the podium for the second time at the Beijing Olympics.

Blondin, 31, came into the final speed skating event of the Games as one of the favourites.

She carried that status when the event debuted at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics too, but she crashed out in the semifinal, dashing her medal hopes early.

Her first two races in Beijing didn't go quite according to plan either, as she placed 14th in the 3,000 metres and 13th in the 1,500m.

She was visibly frustrated after the latter.

"I was going in as an underdog and I skated like an underdog, so it is what it is," she said.

The Canadian made sure that didn't happen again in the mass start. She dominated her semifinal, crossing the finish line in first place after the full 16 turns around the ice while also adding points in the intermediate sprint laps.

Blondin won her semifinal in dominant fashion. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

In the final, Blondin bided her time as teammate Valérie Maltais, with whom she won team pursuit gold, went out way in front in the first half of the race.

But as Maltais began to fade, Blondin — the two-time world champion — found her burst for the final few laps. In the final straight-away, Blondin went head-to-head with Schouten.

"It was pretty crazy. I think with actually two to go, I got grabbed by the hips and pulled back. And I fought to keep my position to be able to set myself properly for the last lap," Blondin said.

"I do think I went a tiny bit too early. I think if I was a bit more patient I could have grabbed on the inside, but it is what it is at this point. I'm happy to be on the podium and represent my country the way that I know that I can."

Schouten outstretches to beat Canada's Blondin at the line. (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Schouten wound up with her third gold medal of Beijing.

"My dream was after these Games to be called an Olympic champion, and now I am a three-time champion," Schouten, 29, said. "I am living the dream."

Maltais, the 31-year-old converted short tracker from Saguenay, Que., would place sixth.

Meanwhile, Canadians Jordan Belchos, the 32-year-old from Scarborough, Ont., and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu, a 29-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que., both reached the men's final, where they placed 10th and 15th, respectively.

Blondin's silver was Canada's fifth speed skating medal at the Ice Ribbon in Beijing. Isabelle Weidemann anchored the team pursuit gold while also collecting 5,000m silver and 3,000m bronze. Laurent Dubreuil rebounded from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the 500m to score silver in the 1,000m.

The mass start also represented the final call of legendary CBC broadcaster Steve Armitage's career.

The 78-year-old worked 18 Olympics over more than 50 years with the public broadcaster.

WATCH | Armitage's final call:

Steve Armitage makes the final call of his illustrious career

6 months ago
Duration 2:37
CBC Sports' Steve Armitage, the 78-year-old who worked 18 Olympics over more than 50 years with the public broadcaster, calls the final event of his legendary career.

For Blondin, it was a bow on an Olympic journey that proved to be a fight in and of itself. Not only did she crash out of the 2018 mass start, but she came agonizingly close in three other races with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishes.

She came home with no hardware to show for her efforts. And, for a while, her Beijing experience seemed like it would be a mere continuation.

But then the team pursuit gold came. And now, mass start silver.

"It's been a roller-coaster for me. A lot of down moments and struggling through it. But at the end of the day, this all makes it worth it."

WATCH | Full replay of men's and women's mass start events:

CBC Sports' Steve Armitage retiring after Beijing 2022

6 months ago
Duration 2:51
Take a look back at Armitage's illustrious career as one of the most iconic voices in Canadian broadcasting calls it a day.

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