Young and fast: World Cup selections reveal next speed skating generation

Sochi Olympics Speedskating Women
Clues as to who will form Canada’s next generation of long track stars emerged in Calgary this weekend at the World Cup team selections./p>

Upstart 20-year-old Vincent De Haître and 22-year-old Kali Christ each doubled up to win both the 1000m and 1500m races, events previously dominated by multiple Olympic medallists Denny Morrison and Christine Nesbitt. In fact, almost all event winners in Calgary were Olympic rookies in Sochi or had just missed the Olympic team.

From left, Brittany Schussler, Ivanie Blondin and Kali Christ acknowledge the crowd in Sochi. With Schussler now retired, Blondin and Christ remain to anchor the national team.

The selection results help determine who heads to the first four World Cups of the season. Morrison, with two medals from Sochi 2014, is the only pre-qualified skater based precisely on his success in Russia. Nesbitt was absent from the competition.

A native of Cumberland, Ontario, De Haître kept up his bid for a mainstay spot on the men’s national team after surprising to make the Sochi team. On Sunday, his 1:07.71 in the 1000m edged Olympic silver medallist Morrison’s 1:07.98, more proof De Haître will be part of Canada’s future. A dual-sport athlete, De Haître spent the summer riding hard in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he competed in track cycling.

Vincent De Haitre

Vincent De Haître stretches at the athlete’s village during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

In the women’s 1000m, Christ skated a 1:16.21 earning her second win of the weekend and edging Ivanie Blondin by three one-hundredths of a second. Both made their Olympic debuts in Sochi. The two switched podium spots for the women’s mass start, with 24-year-old Blondin taking the proposed Olympic speed skating event in addition to her 3000m and 5000m victories.

Canada also has new blood in the men’s distance events. On Saturday, Ted-Jan Bloemen broke the Canadian record in the 10,000m with a 13:07.38, knocking 3.2 seconds off Arne Dankers‘ previous mark from 2005. Bloemen, who also won the 5000m with a personal best 6:15.75, is Dutch-born and literally picked up his Canadian passport days before his record-breaking 10,000m skate. The 28-year-old moved to Calgary in June and pending ISU approval could compete for his father’s birth country when the World Cup season begins next month.


Dutch-born Ted-Jan Bloemen (undated photo) only recently became a Canadian citizen.

The season after an Olympic year always includes national team shuffling, with different names able to step up. Laurent Dubreuil who turned 22 this July, missed qualifying for Sochi by five one-hundredths of a second, but this weekend won the 500m ahead of Gilmore Junio and Jamie Gregg. Sochi rookie Marsha Hudey took the women’s sprint race. Whitby, Ontario’s Rob Watson won the men’s mass start.

World Cup selections are only one part of team consideration. An announcement of the full roster could be expected this week and, according to Speed Skating Canada, includes input from their High Performance Committee and national team coaches.

Canada has the following quota spots for 2014-15, meaning you’ll see a mix of familiar and new names on the World Cup teams:

Women: 500m (4), 1000m (4), 1500m (4), 3000m/5000m (3), mass start (2)

Men: 500m (5), 1000m (4), 1500m (4), 5000m/10 000m (2), mass start (1)

Scott Harrigan
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