Canadian speed skating team strikes double World Cup gold in Calgary
Dubreuil wins men's 500 metres; Canadian trio skate to gold in women's team pursuit
Laurent Dubreuil can think of a few reasons he's had one of the best starts to a season in his speedskating career.
The 30-year-old from Levis, Que., claimed his second straight men's 500 metres Saturday at the Olympic Oval.
Dubreuil is the defending World Cup champion in the sprint, and ranks first after three races this season.
"It's almost a dream start," Dubreuil said.
The host Canadians struck double gold Saturday with reigning Olympic champions Isabelle Weidemann and Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., taking women's team pursuit.
"We're the team to beat now, but we're always looking to push that and looking to go faster and skate better together and be more powerful and I think that gives us a lot of fire," Weidemann said.
WATCH l Dubreuil wins 500m race for 2nd-straight week on World Cup tour:
Dubreuil's winning time was 34.017 seconds in Calgary's oval, where he owns the track record of 33.77.
Just three hundredths of a second separated second from fourth with Japan's Tatsuya Shinhama second in 34.181, Jun-Ho Kim of South Korea third in 34.198 and Japan's Yuma Murakami fourth in 34.200.
"I feel like if I have a good race, it's mine to win," Dubreuil said. "There's more pressure when you're fifth or eighth or 10th and you think you need a perfect race to win and then you cannot screw up anything.
"Me, I feel I can maybe miss the first 10 metres of my race and still win because I know I'm good enough to allow myself to make a small mistake or two.
Dubreuil and wife Andreanne Bastille have a son Nathan born two and a half months ago, as well as three-year-old daughter Rose.
"Skating is not what I am anymore," Dubreuil said. "I'm a father before I am a skater. Also, the last few years, I've had enough good results where I could check a few things that I wanted to do off my career list, like an Olympic medal and a world championship gold.
"If for any reason I had to stop skating tomorrow, I'd be very happy with my career. Not that I don't want to win any more. I want to win as much as ever. I don't have to win. I feel like every medal I win now is a bonus on top of a good career already.
"So there's no pressure. I think it makes me a better skater. It makes me relaxed. I don't feel nervous. I think it's going to lead to me having a longer career as well because stress can eat you from the inside and I'm just having fun skating."
Dubreuil was the reigning world champion in the 500 when he finished three hundredths of a second off the podium in Beijing's Winter Olympics in February.
The Canadian rallied to earn a silver medal in the 1,000 metres there. Dubreuil (pronounced doo-BRAY) races that distance Sunday in Calgary.
'Teamwork just makes both stronger'
He spent seven weeks this summer training alongside Japanese rival Murakami, who ranks second behind Dubreuil in the 500, in Quebec City.
"It helped us both," Dubreuil said. "I had a pretty bad summer of training before he came. I was very injured. Back issues, which led to some motivation issues as well.
"Then he showed up and the back cleared up at the same time. It forced me to be maybe more focused in my approach because I knew he was making a big commitment coming to train for seven weeks with me.
"Teamwork just makes both stronger. I think it has a lot to do with me having the best start to my season of my career."
Canada goes back-to-back in team pursuit event
Weidemann, Blondin and Maltais won their second team pursuit in as many races this season in a time of 2:54.492. Runner-up Japan was 3.18 seconds behind and the United States finished third 3.46 seconds back of Canada.
The Canadians have their eyes on Japan's world record of 2:50.76. Calgary and Salt Lake City vie for the title of fastest ice, but the former hasn't produced world records on the World Cup's third stop.
"The ice is definitely not as fast as maybe we would like, but what's important today is we have a 2:54 and we have a three-second gap with the other team," Maltais said.
"It shows how strong our team is. We don't expect less than winning the team pursuit every time we show up on the ice."
WATCH l Canadian women win team pursuit gold:
Japan's Miho Tagaki took the women's 1,500 metres ahead of Nadezhda Morozova of Kazakhstan in second and Antoinette Rijpma - de Jong of the Netherlands third. Blondin was the top Canadian in sixth.
The International Skating Union has banned Russia and Belarus from competition this season because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Belarus's support of it.
The first of two consecutive World Cups in Calgary concludes Sunday with the men's and women's mass starts and 1,000 metres. Another three days of racing resumes Friday at the oval.