Cumberland native Vincent De Haitre won his first career World Championships medal in South Korea and set a Canadian record back on home ice to cap an exceptional international speed skating season in February.
First, the 22-year-old captured silver in the men’s 1,000 metres at the World Single Distance Championships on Feb. 11, thus hitting Speed Skating Canada criteria for selection to the 2018 Winter Olympic team thanks to the podium.
“I knew I had the potential to do it throughout the season, but there was still a lot of work to do to be able to reach it,” De Haitre, who was also 4th in the 1,500 m, said in a Speed Skating Canada media release. “I'm confident that this is a pretty good step for my progression towards the Olympics and I'm excited to see how it will go.
“All week long, I worked on speed, but my coach told me the last part of my race was my best, which surprised me because it wasn't our main focus. Our main focus was to be relaxed and getting up to speed as effectively as possible. It really benefitted me, especially on this ice surface that reminds me of Calgary, which was an advantage for me.”
Back at the national team’s home for the Feb. 25-26 World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Calgary, De Haitre broke Olympic medalist Jeremy Wotherspoon’s 1,000 m Canadian record, clocking in at 1:06.72 – .73 seconds better than his previous best.
“The record means quite a lot to me,” signalled the Gloucester Concordes product. “I’ve had my eye on it every time since I thought I had a shot at it, maybe for three or four years now. It’s nice to know that I’m the fastest Canadian in history in the 1000 m.”
Going faster than Wotherspoon’s 2007 mark was particularly special.
“I definitely looked up to Jeremy as a younger skater. Knowing that I’m competing with some of the best is a huge motivational factor going into the next couple of years,” added De Haitre. “I’m looking forward to having a whole year to go a few tenths faster to get the world record. I made one mistake going into the last turn of my 1000 m that I can fix, and hopefully, I can take off another tenth or two.”
Fellow Concordes-bred skater Ivanie Blondin also earned a podium position at the World Single Distance Championships, taking bronze in the 5,000 m on the heels of a 4th-place finish in the 3,000 m.
“It was a great race from start to finish. I showed that I was gutsy,” the 26-year-old said via Speed Skating Canada. “The 3000m really got to me personally, as did the team pursuit. I really wanted that medal and I was so close to it. It kind of made me get fired up about it.
“It's a great feeling to finally put the effort and to show how fierce I can be on the ice, and to finally come home with a medal.”
In her signature mass start event, Blondin was taken down just after the final turn by another athlete wiping out. She will skate at the Mar. 4-5 World Allround Speed Skating Championships in Norway.
The youngest Concordes national team member, 21-year-old Isabelle Weidemann, also had a strong showing at the World Single Distance Championships, earning a top-10 in the women’s 3,000 m in a new personal-best time of 4:04.54 and then placing 6th in the 5,000 m in 6:59.75 – a new all-time best and just 2.61 seconds back of Blondin’s spot on the podium.
“I hadn't come up with a personal best since last season in the fall,” Weidemann noted. “This is also the first time I come up with a personal best outside of Calgary. The pace at training this week was pretty fast and I was expecting it to be kind of similar to what we do in Calgary.”