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Upcoming events


CHARITY DART TOURNAMENT – Royal Oak Orléans is hosting a charity dart tournament in support of the Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre Food Bank in honour of Royal Oak Day. Cost is $10/player, teams are chosen at random and there are prizes to be won! Registration at 12:30 p.m. Game time 1 p.m.

CORO VIVO OTTAWA presents Nibi Water is Life – L’eau, c’est la vie at 7:30 pm at Orléans United Church. This is Coro Vivo’s Spring Concert featuring a commissioned work by the Cree composer Andrew Balfour. Tickets $25 on eventbrite.com or $30 at the door. Children under 14 admitted at no charge.

PINTS FOR POTCAKES from 11 am to 2 pm at the Stray Dog Brewing Company in support of Eastern Ontario Potcake Rescue. Beers, raffle and bake sale. Come out and have a pint while visiting with some adoptable dogs at the Stray Dog Brewing Company, 501 Lacolle Way in the Taylor Creek Business Park.

ORLÉANS FARMER’S MARKET from 11 am to 4 pm in the parking lot at the Ray Friel Recreation Complex on Tenth Line Road featuring local food vendors and producers.

THE ORIGINAL NAVAN MARKET returns to the Navan Fair Grounds from 10 am to 5 pm with more than 150 local vendors and artisans. Come and see why the Original Navan Markey has become on of the most popular outdoor markets in Eastern Ontario.Visit facebook.com/OriginalNavanMarket.

BLACKBURN FUN FAIR returns to Blackburn Hamlet with a carnival style midway, music, local vendors, a used book fair, beer garden and fireworks. For more information visit www.blackburnfunfair.ca.


 

Redemption at last for Orléans speedskating queen
Fred Sherwin
March 3, 2022

It’s been a long four years for Orléans native and three-time Olympian Ivanie Blondin. In 2018, she was one of the co-favourites to compete for the gold medal in the Mass Start event in long track speedskating.

Unfortunately, her dreams of winning an Olympic medal were dashed when she fell in the semifinal. It was arguably one of the lowest points in her life, but the École secondaire Garneau grad and Gloucester Concordes member was determined to give it one more shot and for the past four years she’s been training diligently to give herself a shot at redemption and chance at that elusive medal.

In a phone interview with the Orléans Star, the now 31-year-old Blondin admitted that she was struggling to find her groove in the individual events during the first four races of the World Cup season even though the women’s pursuit team of which she’s a member along with Isabelle Weidemann and Valerie Maltais, had been doing extremely well.

Her best result in the 5,000-metres was a 5th place finish in Norway in November, while her top result in the 3,000-metres was a 6th place finish in Salt Lake City in December. Even in her specialty, the Mass Start, she had only won once in three events.

“I hadn’t really hit my peak heading into the Olympics, so mentally I really wasn’t doing well,” Blondin said from her home in Calgary.

If her mental state wasn’t that great head-ing into the Olympics, placing a distant 14th in the 3,000-metres on the opening day didn’t help.

After placing 13th in the 1,500, which is admittedly her weakest distance, two days later, Blondin decided to pull out of the 5,000 to focus on the Team Pursuit and Mass Start events.

Blondin, Weidemann and Maltais were the number one ranked team in the world heading into the Olympics, having won all three of the World Cup events so far this season. Japan was ranked number two and the Netherlands number three.

Seeding in the semifinals was determined by how fast each team skated in the quarterfinals. The Canadian girls had the second fastest time behind Japan and ahead of the Netherlands, meaning they would have to beat the veteran Dutch team to gain a berth in the final.

The semis and the final took place two hours apart on Feb. 15.

Skating in front of a large contingent of fellow Canadian athletes, including mem-bers of the men’s and women’s hockey teams, Blondin, Weidemann and Maltais were able to best the Netherlands threesome in their semi-final to set up a gold medal showdown against Japan who easily beat the Russian team in their semi-final. In the gold medal race, Japan got out to fast start, building up a full second lead after two and half laps.

By the midway point of the 12-lap race, they had narrowed the gap down to less than 0.6 seconds. With two laps to go, they were only 0.4 seconds behind. And when the bell sound signaling the final lap they were just over three-tenths behind.

The Japanese were clearly tiring, while the Canadian girls were continuing to apply the pressure. That combination of fatigue and pressure ultimately resulted in one of the Japanese girls losing an edge on the final curve, causing her to crash out of the race and give the Canadians the win and the gold medal.

“At first I wasn’t sure we had won, because I didn’t see what happened. Issy did, because she was at the front, so she was already celebrating. I didn’t believe we had won until I saw it on the screen,” recalled Blondin. “It all came down to us relying on each other and knowing what we were capable of.”

The picture of the three girls celebrating together after receiving their gold medals taken by Canadian Speed Skating photog-rapher Greg Kolz is one of the most iconic images of the Beijing Olympics.

As proud as she was of winning the gold medal in the Team Pursuit, Blondin still had some unfinished business: the Mass Start, and a shot at that individual medal which had eluded her in 2018.

“Going into the (Mass Start) semi-final, I was really quite nervous, which I never am during the World Cups,” said Blondin. “As much as I didn’t want to think about the fall in Korea, I guess it was still in the back of my mind.”

Despite the pre-race jitters, Blondin easily won her semi-final and was surprisingly at ease at the start of the final.

When her name was announced on the PA system she smiled ear to ear and waved to the Canadian supporters in the stands.

The race went pretty much as predicted with Blondin, Irene Schouten of the Netherlands and Francesca Lollobrigida from Italy all jockeying for position.

Blondin was in the lead heading into the final turn with Schouten on her hip. As they both approached the finish line, Schouten was able to edge her skate blade ahead of Blondin’s, winning the event by just six one-hundredths of a second.

Despite having to settle for silver, Blondin was pleased with the result.

“We’ve been skating against each other for so many years, to all finish on the podium together in what could be our last Olympics was pretty special,” said Blondin who joined the Gloucester Concordes Speedskating Club when she was just eight years old. By the time she was 12, she was already winning the provincial age class championships.

She started out as a short track specialist but became disillusioned over the cliqueishness of the sport being the only non-Quebec member of the national team at the time. She switched to long track in 2010 and moved to Calgary to be nearer to the national team training facility. The rest, as they say, is history and now Blondin is a multiple Olympic medalist.

So is this really her last Olympics? “I’m a pretty strong cyclist, so you never know,” says Blondin, perhaps hinting at a Clara Hughes-like Summer/Winter Olympic double.

 
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