Canadian speed skating is back in a good place
Weidemann, others look to build on 5-medal Olympic haul
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Coming off back-to-back Winter Olympics at which they won just two medals, Canada's long track speed skaters captured five last February in Beijing, matching the country's second-highest single-Games total. Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais won gold in the women's team pursuit, Blondin added a silver in the mass start and Weidemann grabbed a silver and a bronze in the long-distance races to complete the Olympic-medal rainbow and earn the honour of carrying the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony. On the men's side, Laurent Dubreuil rebounded from a disappointing podium miss in the 500 metres to take silver in the 1,000.
The Beijing performance was no fluke, as Canadian skaters produced excellent results all season long. Dubreuil captured the World Cup title in the men's 500 after reaching the podium in nine of the 10 races; Weidemann, Blondin and Maltais won the women's mass start title after sweeping their three races; while Blondin (women's mass start), Connor Howe (men's 1,500), Ted-Jan Bloemen (men's long distances) and the men's pursuit team earned top-three finishes in the standings. The season did end on a sour note with Canada getting shut out of the medals at the world allround and sprint championships in March, but that can be excused coming off the Olympic peak a few weeks earlier.
A new international long track season opens Friday through Sunday in Norway, the opening stop on the World Cup circuit. Then it's off to the Netherlands for another World Cup meet next week before Canada hosts three straight December events: the Four Continents championships in Quebec followed by a World Cup doubleheader in Calgary. The World Cup season closes with two stops in Poland in February before the world championships in the Netherlands in March.
Canadians might find the path to the podium a bit easier this season as several international stars retired after the world championships. They include Swedish long-distance king Nils van der Poel, who went out in style by sweeping the men's 5,000m and 10,000m gold medals at the Olympics before adding the allround world title, and Dutch legends Ireen Wüst and Sven Kramer. Wüst won her sixth Olympic gold medal in five Games in Beijing. Kramer missed the podium there before walking away with a record nine world allround championships and four Olympic titles.
You can watch all three days of the World Cup opener in Norway live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem, starting Friday at 11 a.m. ET. Catch additional coverage on the CBC TV network Saturday from 3-4 p.m. ET. See the full CBC Sports broadcast and streaming schedules here for details.
Meanwhile, Canada's short track speed skaters have their own Four Continents championships starting Friday in Salt Lake City. Through two World Cup stops this season, Canadian short trackers have won 12 medals — seven individual and five in relays. Leading the way with two solo podiums is 2022 Olympic triple medallist Steven Dubois, who won gold in the men's 500 and silver in the 1,500 at the World Cup opener in Montreal two weeks ago. You can stream the Four Continents live on CBC Sports' digital platforms on Friday and Saturday starting at 6 p.m. ET.