|Isabelle Weidemann gets a group hug from some old friends fduring her homecoming celebration at Colonel By Secondary School on April 9. FRED SHERWIN PHOTO
It was a magical homecoming for Beacon Hill native and triple Olympic medalist Isabelle Weidemann last Saturday, as over 100 people gathered in front of Colonel By Secondary School to celebrate Isabelle Weidemann Day in Ottawa.
Isabelle attended Colonel By Secondary School while growing up in Beacon Hill. During that time she was also a member of the Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club where she developed a love for the sport that would carry her to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and a trio of medals.
She won a silver medal in the women's 5000-metres, a bronze medal in the 3000 metres and a gold medal in the women's team pursuit along with fellow Gloucester Concorde and Orléans native Ivanie Blondin.
Only two other Canadians have won more than two medals at a Winter Olympics – Cindy Klassen won six medals Turin, Italy, in 2006 and Gaéten Boucher won three medals in Sarajevo in 1986.
For her accomplishment, Isabelle was given the honour of carrying the Canadian flag in the closing ceremonies.
One of the people in attendance at Satur-day’s homecoming was Isabelle’s former coach and Gloucester Concordes founding president Sandra Chenard who couldn’t be more proud of her former student.
“I’m proud of all of our Olympians,” said Chenard referring to Weidemann, Blondin and Vincent de Haître who competed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in speed skating and the 2021 Summer Olympics in cycling.
When Isabelle arrived, she was mobbed by several dozen young children who had been waiting to get her autograph and have their picture taken with her. Canada’s newest Olympic hero did one better by letting them wear her medals.
It’s been nearly 10 years since the 26- year-old last visited her old high school. After graduating, she moved to Calgary with her parents and two siblings to be closer to the long track speed skating training centre and the Olympic Oval. Her brother Jake and younger sister Lily are both speed skaters as well.
Among the folks who turned out to greet Isabelle were high school friends Kate McLeod and Crystal Tierney. All three girls used to spend their lunch hour at the Weidemann residence which backed on to the Colonel By sports field.
There were a number of other familiar faces in the crowd as well.
“It’s just so cool,” beamed Isabelle, who couldn’t stop smiling during the hour-long event. “It’s so nice. This is where I grew up and I still have friends and family who live here and have been cheering me on my entire career.”
Isabelle made sure to spend a moment with everyone who approached her, especially the kids.
“It’s so crazy because I was them not that long ago,” explained Isabelle. “Even four years ago when I was on the Olympic team, I was the young gung-ho kid that was following all the stars around. I still feel like that sometimes. I’m just so excited to be able to share this with everyone.”
One of Isabelle’s biggest fans is Beacon Hill, Cyrville Ward councillor Tim Tierney who organized the event and presented Isabelle with a framed citation signed by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson proclaiming April 9 as Isabelle Weidemann Day.
“To watch her go from not as tall as she is today to the powerhouse that she is for Team Canada and long track speed skating is unbelievable. You couldn’t have a better story,” said Tierney who has been friends with the Weidemanns for more than 20 years.
And Isabelle’s story is far from over. She plans to compete at the 2026 Winter Games in Milano Cortina, Italy where she will no doubt add to her medal total. In the meantime, she can look forward to four more years of training while competing on the World Cup circuit and you can bet her fans will be following her every step – or stride – of the way.
Who knows, maybe one of the kids who met Isabelle last Saturday and was able to wear one of her medals around their neck will win a medal of their own some day.