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Speed Skating
Blondin strikes gold at World Single Distance Championships
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Ivanie Blondin is on top of the world after winning her first every world championship title on Sunday.

The 25-year-old veteran speedskater from Orléans outsprinted four other competitors to the finish line to win the gold medal in the mass start event at the World Single Distance Championships in Kolomna, Russia.

The gold medal skate was fueled by her second place finish at last year’s world champion-ships and a disappointing campaign on the World Cup circuit so far this season in which she has failed to make it to the top step of the podium

In Sunday’s race, Blondin stayed near the front of the pack until Japanese skater Miho Takagi took the lead heading into the final lap.

Blondin went with Takagi as they entered the first turn and then tucked in behind her through the backstretch. She waited until the final turn to make her move, passing the Japanese skater on the inside coming out of the bend and then holding off the competition for the win.

As she crossed the finish line, an elated Bondin thrust her hands into the air and immediately skated over to the boards to hug coach Mark Wild as she wiped the tears from her eyes.

Minutes later, the tears welled up again as Blondin stood on top of the podium with the gold medal around her neck and watched as the Canadian flag was raised to the rafters accompanied by the strains of O’ Canada.

After the medal ceremony, Blondin tried to describe how it felt to be a world champion.

“It’s the best feeling. I’m so excited. I don’t even know what to say. This race is just the cherry on top of the cake,” said Blondin.

It’s been a long road for the Garneau high school alum who very nearly gave up the sport in 2010 after several discouraging year’s in the national short track program.

After a conversation with Gloucester Concordes coach Mike Rivet she decided to make the switch to long track. What followed were several up and down years during which she struggled with injuries before putting it all together during the 2013-2014 season to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Socchi in the 3000, 5000-metres.

The Olympic experience provided Blondin with some extra motivation heading into the 2014-2015 season resulting in her first two World Cup gold medals and the overall World Cup championship in the mass start.

When the IOC voted to add the mass start to the long track program for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea last summer, other skaters who had not competed in the event before, suddenly started showing an interest and the level of competition increased almost overnight.

Heading into the World Championships, Blondin had two seconds and two third place finishes in four World Cup events this season, but no firsts.

Unlike last year’s World Championships in which she competed in the 3000, 5000 and team pursuit before the mass start, Blondin dropped the 5000 this year to conserve energy. It turned out to be a gold medal-winning decision.

"It was my goal this season to be world champion in the mass start. Finishing second last year gave me the motivation this year to go get the title for Canada, for me, for my coach and for my teammate Josie Spence," said Blondin who will return to Calgary with the rest of the national team to prepare for the World Allround Championships in Berlin from March 5-6.

After Berlin, Blondin will travel to Heerenveen, Netherlands where she hopes to defend her World Cup title. She is currently sitting in second place in the World Cup standings, 16 points behind Schouten.

A win would clinch the title for Blondin, otherwise she must finish at least two places higher than her Dutch rival.

(Updated 8 p.m., Feb. 14)

 

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