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Dubreuil aims to keep hot streak going at World Cup speedskating stop in Calgary

CALGARY — Like several of his Canadian teammates, Laurent Dubreuil has set his sights on winning World Cup long-track speedskating medals in Calgary this weekend. The 29-year-old from Levis, Que.

CALGARY — Like several of his Canadian teammates, Laurent Dubreuil has set his sights on winning World Cup long-track speedskating medals in Calgary this weekend.

The 29-year-old from Levis, Que., has won six straight medals in the men’s 500 metres on the World Cup circuit this season (one gold, two silver, three bronze) and would like nothing more than to keep his streak alive in the friendly confines of Calgary’s Olympic Oval.

"I think the real advantage comes from knowing the ice," said Dubreuil, who's first in the men's 500 World Cup standings just ahead of Japanese sprinters Tatsuya Shinhama and Wataru Morishige. 

"This for sure gives us an advantage, just being comfortable in the facility. Nothing is new for us here. We’ve done good in the past here and I think we have the potential to do it again this time."

Dubreuil will have two shots to win medals in the 500 metres with races on Friday and Sunday. After winning bronze last Sunday in Salt Lake City in a personal best time of 34:05 seconds, he's hoping to go even faster in his continued attempt to break Jeremy Wotherspoon's Canadian record of 34:03.

 "That's a mythical time in speedskating," said Dubreuil, who will also compete in the men's 1,500 on Sunday. "To have a chance to even beat it, it’s humbling. It's definitely a goal of mine. 

 "For it to have actually stood 14 years and counting — because I’m not sure if I can beat it right now — it shows how good Jeremy really was."

Calgary’s Ted-Jan Bloemen also has a chance to win multiple medals as he’ll compete in the men's 5,000 on Friday afternoon before he hopes to help Canada reach the podium in men’s team pursuit on Sunday.

"I had a little bit of a hard competition last weekend where I couldn’t really find my energy after a short period with a lot of stress leading into that World Cup," admitted Bloemen, who's sitting second in the men's 5,000 World Cup standings behind Sweden's Nils van der Poel. 

"I got on top of that now, so I’m getting my energy back. Hopefully I’ll be my old self again, or at least a lot better than last week. I really want to show my best race at home."

Like Dubreuil and Bloemen, Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin has a chance to reach the podium more than once. Along with Ottawa's Isabelle Weidemann and Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., Blondin will start the event by competing in the women's 3,000m race on Friday afternoon.

"I think it’ll be really fun for all of us," said Blondin, who’s ranked seventh in the World Cup standings at the 3,000 distance, while Weidemann sits in second and Maltais is in 13th. "In the past, I’ve been on the podium many times in the 3K. I’m maybe not aiming directly for the podium, but I’m trying to get a little bit higher ranking."

The top-ranked trio of Blondin, Weidemann and Maltais will then look to skate to their fourth straight World Cup gold medal in women’s team pursuit on Saturday afternoon.

"The level of the team has taken a step up over the past two years," said Blondin, who helped her team set a Canadian record of two minutes 52.41 seconds in Salt Lake City en route to another gold. "We just function very well as a team and we race really well together. It's just gone really well for us, so I’m looking forward to that event."

On Sunday, Blondin will compete in both the women's 1,500 and mass start. While looking to improve on her standing of 12th in the 1,500, Blondin is heading into the mass start as the top-ranked competitor.

"It's a long day and I obviously have to prepare myself mentally for that one," she said. "It’s always a little bit of a struggle, but last weekend went phenomenally well. I won the mass start, so I was really happy about that."

The Canadian contingent will include 16 men and 11 women and it's the last chance for the skaters to pre-qualify for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China. 

"It's still far away, the Olympics, so I wouldn’t say it’s a tune-up for the Games," Dubreuil said. "It's the last push until we can rest a bit and train again after, which is something I’m forward to."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2021.

Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press