The Canadian long track speed skating team is set to begin their international season this weekend at the 2018 ISU World Cup Speed Skating #1 in Obihiro, Japan. The first competition of this year’s World Cup circuit runs from November 16-18 at the Meiji Hokkaido-Tokachi Oval.
The competition gets underway Friday with the 500m(1) and team pursuit finals, as well as the semifinals for the mass start. The 500m(2), 1500m and mass start finals will take place on Saturday, while those for the 1000m, 3000m (Ladies), 5000m (Men’s) and team sprint are set for Sunday.
Eleven national team athletes, nine of whom competed at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, will lace up their skates in Obihiro, a city that has hosted four previous ISU World Cups. They will look to build upon the 24 medals Canadians claimed last season.
Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann are two female skaters to keep an eye on this weekend.
Blondin won six World Cup medals last season and has also had success in Obihiro, bringing home gold in the ladies’ mass start when they last hosted a World Cup during 2014-15 season.
Weidemann, a winner of three national titles (3000m, 5000m, Mass Start) at last month’s Canadian Single Distance Championships, will look to parlay her early season success into results on the international stage.
Calgary’s Ted-Jan Bloemen, reigning Olympic champion in the 10,000m and last season’s top long-distance skater on the World Cup circuit, leads a talented men’s side.
He will be joined by a pair of veterans in Jordan Belchos of Toronto, Ont. and Laurent Dubreuil of Lévis, Que., as well as a trio of youngsters, led by David La Rue of Saint-Lambert, Que., a double medalist at last year’s World Junior Championships in Salt Lake City.