Laurent Dubreuil celebrates after winning the 500m-1 on opening day of the 2020 ISU World Sprint & Allround Championships in Hamar, Norway. Credit: International Skating Union

Laurent Dubreuil got off to an impressive start at the inaugural combined ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Hamar, Norway on Friday, racing to a first-place finish in the 500m-1 and fifth-place in the 1000m-1.

He is currently ranked second overall (68.945) after the first day of competition, 0.23 seconds behind leader Tatsuya Shinhama of Japan (68.720). He entered the competition ranked seventh in the world in the 500m and fifth in the 1000m.

Dubreuil (Lévis, Que.) cruised to a win in the 500m-1, finishing the race in 34.55, and followed that up with a fifth-place result in the 1000m (1:08.79). Ranked second in the overall standings after Friday’s races, the 27-year old is in a great position to improve on his career best sixth-place finish at the competition, which he earned at the Olympic Oval in Calgary in 2017.

The Quebec-based sprint specialist has a shot at becoming the first Canadian since 2008 to reach the podium at the World Sprint Championships, something only Jeremy Wotherspoon, Mike Ireland and Gaétan Boucher have ever accomplished.

Looking for some redemption following a disappointing showing at the World Single Distance Championship, Kaylin Irvine (Calgary, Alta.) put forth a pair of strong races, finishing eighth in the 500m (38.00) and 14th in the 1000m (1:16.28) on the women’s side. She’s currently the top ranked Canadian female, sitting in 12th position, ahead of teammates Heather McLean (Winnipeg, Man.) in 16th and Abigail McCluskey (Penticton, B.C.) in 22nd.

This weekend’s competition combines the previously separate World Allround Championships and World Sprint Championships, crowing Sprint champions based on the combined times after two 500m and two 1000m races, as well as Allround champions, following the results from a 500m, 1000m, 1500m and 3000m/5000m race.

The Sprint portion of the competition concludes Saturday, with the second 500m and 1000m races, while the Allround portion gets underway, featuring the 500m, women’s 3000m and men’s 5000m.

“I had really good 500m race today and I’m happy with my result. I knew I had the legs as I’ve been feeling good all week long, even better than in Salt Lake City. We talked about getting off to a strong start with a big race to put me in contention, and that’s what I was able to do. To win the race was a bonus. The important thing is the combined time after four races, so to be in second place after the first day is very encouraging. I’m excited to see if I can maintain or even move up a spot to grab the title. I’m skating well so I’m just going to try and execute again tomorrow.”

– Laurent Dubreuil