IBSF/International Skating Union
Team Canada’s athletes are competing around the world this weekend as winter sports take their place in the spotlight.
Canada’s figure skaters are in Finland for the final leg of the ISU Grand Prix Series, while the speed skaters and skeleton skaters will return to their Olympic Winter Games spots in Beijing, China. Some of Canada’s best alpine skiers will hit the slopes in Europe, and in warmer climes, Brooke Henderson kicked off the final LPGA Tour tournament of the season in Florida.
Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:
Three Canadian pairs will compete this weekend at the ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix in Espoo, Finland.
The current Canadian champions Laurence Fournier-Beaudry AND Nikolai Soerensen will be in action during the ice dancing event. Having won silver at the French Grand Prix earlier this month, another similar result should likely secure them a place in the Grand Prix Final in December, which will feature only the top six duos from the autumn series. They are seeded second, behind training partners and reigning world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States.
The new generation dance duo of Nadia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont will make their senior Grand Prix debut. Last year, they won the junior final of the Grand Prix in figure skating.
Another promising duo, Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar, will represent Canada in doubles. They finished sixth at the Skate Canada International at the end of October and will try to reach the Grand Prix podium again after winning their first medal, a bronze, last year at the NHK Trophy.
The competition will start on Friday with pair skaters and ice dancers with a short program and dance to the rhythm. On Saturday, there will be a free program and a free dance. The contest will be available via webcast on the Radio-Canada Sports website.
Fast skating on long tracks
After the World Cup season kicked off in Obihiro, Japan last week, Canada’s long track speed skaters are in action on the ice oval where the Olympic events were recently held.
Ivan Blondin, who began the defense of her mass start World Cup title last week with a gold medal in the event, will look to continue that with another strong performance on Saturday. Fourth Obihiru, Valérie Maltais will aim for the top podium this season, after winning an individual medal at the 2022-2023 circuit. The team race, in which these two athletes regularly perform, is not on the program this weekend.
Some Canadian skaters would like to climb to the top of the podium this season. Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu he placed fourth in last weekend’s mass start and his past achievements include a bronze medal at the 2020 World Single Track Championships. Ted-Jan Bloemenfourth in the first men’s 5000 m race of the season, will be on the starting line of the same race on Saturday.
Laurent Dubreuil, last season’s World Cup 500m champion, has two chances for a podium finish in this event while the distance is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, he will also start in the 1000 meters, the discipline in which he won a silver medal in Beijing 2022.
Canadian teams will also be seen in the men’s and women’s team sprint events on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. These events are not on the Olympic program, but Canada is the current world champion in both events.
The IBSF Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup begins this weekend in Yanqing, China, on the ice track that was used for the Beijing 2022 events. Mirela Rahneva, Jane Channell and Hallie Clarke will be in action on Friday.
Rahneva had a strong 2022-23 season, winning bronze at the IBSF World Championships and finishing third overall in the World Cup standings. She placed fifth at the Yanqing track during her second Olympic appearance. Channell, also a tour veteran, had four top-10 World Cup finishes last season and finished sixth at the World Championships.
Clarke, who is just 19 years old, returned to Canada after representing the United States last season. As a rookie at the World Cup, she won two silver medals, one at the beginning and one at the end of last season. She also won gold in the U20 category at the 2023 World Junior Championships.
Canada’s Best Skeletonist, Blake Enzie, as well as the entire bobsleigh team, will participate in the North American Cup in Lake Placid. With no women’s bobsled event on Yanqing’s schedule, it made more sense for the bobsled team to begin its World Cup campaign at a second stop in La Plagne, France, in December.
The FIS Men’s Slalom Ski World Cup is scheduled for Saturday in Gurgl, Austria. Canada’s men’s technical skiers are hoping to compete in their first White Circus race of the season after seeing the giant slalom in Soldent, Austria, canceled in late October due to high winds on the glacier. Erik Read is the highest ranked Canadian on the start list for this World Cup in slalom.
Two women’s downhill World Cup races are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday near Zermatt-Cervinia on the route from Switzerland to Italy. Hopefully these events will not suffer the same fate as the men’s downhill that was supposed to take place there last weekend and had to be canceled due to heavy snow and wind. Canadian Stefanie Fleckenstein will be in the starting gate.
After opening the 2023 season by winning the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions in January, Brooke Henderson is still looking for her second win of the season on the LPGA Tour. He will try to get his hands on the title at the season finale at the CME Group Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida over the weekend.
She came very close to getting her hands on another trophy when she finished second at the Evian Championship last July. At the end of October, she finished sixth in the Maybank Championship.