(Obihiro) The Canadians won a silver medal in the team pursuit at the first stop of the ISU World Cup long track speed skating season this weekend in Obihiro.
After ending last season by winning the long-awaited world championship title, the trio of Isabelle Weidemann, Valérie Maltais, and Ivanie Blondin took silver on Saturday, 1.22 seconds behind the gold medalists from Japan, playing in front of their fans.
Paired with their Dutch rivals in the final pair, the Canadians came back on the attack after a slow start showing good consistency in terms of lap times, completing the distance in 2:59.25.
The gold was won by the Japanese (2:58.03), and the bronze by the Dutch (3:01.29).
This is the first time since the 2019 Nagano stage that Canada has had to settle for silver in this World Cup race.
The reigning Olympic champions have previously won eight straight World Cup gold medals and four consecutive World Cup titles since the start of the 2020-21 season.
Reaching the podium at the first World Cup this season was even more special given that the Canadian team adopted a unique new strategy and applied it for the first time in international competition.
The Canadians decided to abandon the traditional exchanges during the race, opting instead for a strategy of one skater – in this case a Maltese – leading the pack from start to finish.
Maltais spoke after the race about the positive result in the context of the three Canadians heading into the unknown.
“We finished the race and it was like we had to find our level, where we were going to put our intensity. Even I, at the front, do I give everything at the beginning? Do I hold the pedal a little easier because I have to adjust with the start? It is clear that I have to give more because in the end, for my part, when I finished the race, I was still OK. There was no worry about that. It certainly gives you confidence to say you can do better,” Maltais said.
The athlete from La Baie admits that the difference that separated the Japanese from the Canadians on Saturday was big. However, Maltais and her teammates believe they can make up the difference.
“The feeling we have, after the race, is that it doesn’t matter if it’s a second or half a second, or less than that, we’re able to get that gap without any problems,” Maltais said.
A dozen other Canadian skaters also competed in the races held on Saturday.
The Canadian men’s team of Connor Howe, David La Rue, and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu finished sixth in the men’s team pursuit with a time of 3:45.29, while Maltais had the best result in the individual distances. , finishing 10th.e at 1500 meters for women (1:57.76).
“Last year, I didn’t go to the 1500 meters, I didn’t qualify. I really worked on the 1500m over the summer and I’m really happy with how I’m doing at the moment,” Maltais analyzed.
“The way I skated today, I feel it can get better and better. I feel like I still have something technically, and physically in the tank. I am very happy with my race today because I feel I can do even better. It’s just about small adjustments, technical and tactical,” she added about this specific event.
The ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Obihiro concludes on Sunday with the women’s 3000m and the men’s 500m and 5000m races.