Double Olympic medalist Ivanie Blondin returned to where it all began on Sunday as she was showered with some hometown appreciation at the Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Centre in Orléans – home of the Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club.
The road from awkward beginner to Olympic gold and silver medalist has been a long and winding one for the 32-year-old Blondin, often pot-holed with injuries and disappointment.
The Garneau high school grad started out as a short track specialist. After winning a truckload of provincial titles, she eventually graduated to the national team, but internal politics lead her to consider jumping to the long track team.
When things came to a head at the 2010 Winter Olympic trials and she failed to make the Olympic team, Ivanie made the move to long track and never looked back. She qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea four years after that.
Although Ivanie had high hopes of medaling in PyeongChang, she could do no better than fifth in the 5,000 metres and sixth in the 3,000, with her specialty, the mass, start still to come.
In an event where she was considered one of the favourites, she fell in the final turn in the semi-finals, and just like that, her Olympics were over, but not the dream of winning an Olympic medal.
Ivanie continued to train hard for the next four years, winning several World Cup titles along the way.
After getting off to a rocky start in Beijing with a 13th place performance in the 1500-metres and 14th place result in the 3,000, Ivanie opted out of the 5,000 to focus on the team pursuit event and the mass start.
It turned out to be a great decision as she went on to win the gold medal in the team pursuit with fellow Gloucester Concorde member Isabelle Weidemann and an individual silver medal in the mass start, avenging the disappointment she suffered in South Korea.
Since returning from the Olympics, Ivanie has been treated like a superstar wherever she goes. On April 10, she was the guest of honour at an Ottawa Sens games along with several members of the gold medal winning women’s hockey team.
When asked what it’s been like being back home these last couple of weeks, Ivanie broke into a broad smile.
“It’s been really incredible to finally get to see everyone who has been supporting me all these years face to face and get to thank them in person,” she gushed.
Ivanie moved to Calgary over 10 years ago to be near the national team training centre. Despite living on the other side of the country, she has never forgotten her roots and still drops by the Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club whenever she’s back in town.
Now that the Olympics are over, Ivanie plans to continue skating and perhaps start a family with her husband Konrad Nagy, who she married in 2020. She also hinted that she might take up competitive cycling. Who knows maybe one day she will compete in yet another Olympics, only in a different season..