Concordes fly at different heights in up-and-down season

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Isabelle Weidemann (left) and Ivanie Blondin (right) are split by Keri Morrison – another speedskater with Ottawa ties – in the semifinals of the women’s team pursuit at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games. Photo: David Jackson Canadian Olympic Committee.

By Jake Romphf

Ottawa’s speedskating trio of Ivanie Blondin, Vincent De Haître and Isabelle Weidemann can each look back at the World Cup speedskating season with highs and lows. Blondin, De Haître and Weidemann – each formerly of the Gloucester Concordes – finished the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup season following their departure from the 2018 Winter Olympics, each with personal successes and shortcomings to show for it.

Ivanie Blondin

Blondin finished with the best overall World Cup results out of the three athletes. She skated in the 3000 metre, 5000 m, the team pursuit and the mass start this season. Her season was highlighted by six top 10 finishes, including one gold, two silvers and three bronze medals.

Blondin’s strong performances across the season’s five competitions had her in 1st place overall heading into the World Cup finals held in Minsk, Belarus, in mid-March. She captured a silver in the mass start and bronze in 3000 m at the races held in Minsk. She was the only former Concorde to skate in the season’s finals.

Blondin finished the season 2nd overall in the 3000 m and 5000 m, 3rd in the mass start and 4th in the team pursuit. Overall, she finished in 4th place in the ISU World Cup season.

Vincent De Haître

For De Haître, what started as a season to look forward to quickly turned into one plagued by adversity. “In my first race I got a medal and was like, ‘this is going to be great, I’m not even at my best right now’,” De Haître said. “Then I immediately got sick.”

De Haître fought a mix of illness and injuries all season long, before it came to a head just days before he skated at the Olympics, when he bruised his heel bone. De Haître skated at the Pyeongchang Games, but has since been sidelined due to the injury. His injury was costly for the Canadian sprint team, in which De Haître typically skates as the anchor. The team was unable to compete at the World Cup finals.

The team, who were undefeated all season and also hold the team sprint world record, fell to 3rd overall after not racing in the finals in Minsk.

De Haître said his mental toughness was key all year long. “The good trick in being an athlete is having a short-term memory so that you can forget the bad results, but at the same time build off the good ones,” he said.

De Haître skated through his season-long health struggles to success in his individual races. He finished with six individual top 10s, including one silver medal. He finished the season 16th overall.

Isabelle Weidemann

Weidemann, the youngest of the three skaters at only 22-years-old, saw her skating improve on the World Cup stage this year.

“All of my results were better and (I was) getting closer to the podium,” Weidemann said. She had five top 10 finishes this season, after not placing better than 11th last season.

Weidemann also barely missed the podium in her three Olympic races, placing 4th in the team pursuit, 6th in the 5000 m and 7th in the 3000 m. She said she hopes that fine tuning her training to become more efficient will take her to the next level.

“Train smarter not harder, it’s very easy to train too hard and burn yourself out or not be fit enough,” Weidemann said. “You have to find that balance of just being fit enough to compete and not be burnt out.” Weidemann finished the World Cup season in 30th place overall.

Though April is typically the time for speed skaters to relax, Weidemann says she’s already eager for next season.

“I’m definitely excited, I’m always exited to get back,” said Weidemann.

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