By Mat LaBranche
Nerves have transitioned to comfortability this time around, as Ottawa speed skater Ivanie Blondin is set to compete in her second Winter Olympics for the 2018 edition in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“I have a completely different mindset than I had going into (the last Winter Games) in Sochi,” revealed Blondin. “Going in there I was very inexperienced and didn’t really know what to expect and I was focusing only on the end results. There were quite a bit more nerves, as I remember even before the Olympics it was such a stressful time. I’m a lot more calm this time around and I’m not stressed out whatsoever.”
Blondin punched her ticket to Pyeongchang via the pre-qualification route, which was due to successful showings at prior World Cups and World Championships. She will compete in the women’s 3km and 5km races, as well as the mass start event and the team pursuit.
The mass start event is of special note, as this will be the first time it has been featured in the Olympics.
“It’s exciting to make an imprint on a new Olympic event for sure,” said Blondin. “It’s new to the Olympic scene, but not new to me, as I’ve been racing it at the World Championships for the past few years, and some World Cups as well. But once we’re at the Olympics it’s going to be a bit of a different race, with more at stake, so there will be a lot more elbows out. But that’s my forte, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The event will feature a bit of a twist from what Blondin is accustomed to, as she will be racing with a teammate, Keri Morrison. While some countries use a tactic seen in other team racing sports such as cycling and race car driving, which involves various team members doing anything in their power to give one specific member of their team any possible advantages; Blondin doesn’t envision it happening.
“I’ve never really had the luxury of having a teammate work for me,” disclosed Blondin.
“In Canada we don’t really have set rules for a second skater sacrificing their own race. Some other countries only send a second skater for the purpose of helping the first skater.”
The 27-year-old skater is looking forward to going overseas with not only Morrison, but the other members of her team pursuit squad, which has seen a special bond develop over the past few months thanks to several training camps.
“Relationship-wise I’d say Keri and I are pretty good friends,” acknowledged Blondin. “A year ago we were more so acquaintances, as we really didn’t really know each other that well. But because we’re doing the team pursuit together, which is of course a team event, you really have to bond.”
Not only will Blondin have some close friends competing with her, but she will also have her boyfriend, Konrad Nagy, competing there, albeit skating for the opposing country of Hungary. While it is strictly business between the two on-the-ice, it is a different story off of it.
“When we’re together we don’t necessarily talk about skating and we have a really good balance in that sense, so I’d say we aren’t competitive whatsoever,” said Blondin. “He races in the 15km and on the men’s side, so there isn’t any real competition between us.
It’s just nice to have someone that relates to what you do every day and also someone you can joke around with and be relaxed around in a stressful environment.”
When it comes to expectations, Blondin has her sights set high after a successful season on the 2017-18 ISU Speed Skating World Cup circuit, where she reached the podium in all four distances.
“I think there’s the potential for me to medal for all four different events,” said Blondin.
“It’s high expectations for sure, but after performing as well as I did in fields that were not reduced, and had all the strong skaters there, I received a confidence boost and realized my podium goals are not out of reach.”
Sat., Feb. 10 Women’s 3,000 m 6 a.m. ET
Fri., Feb. 16 Women’s 5,000 m 6 a.m.
Mon., Feb. 19 Women’s Team Pursuit Qualification 6 a.m.
Wed., Feb. 21 Team Pursuit Finals 6 a.m.
Sat., Feb. 24 Women’s Mass Start 6 a.m.