Canada earns a pair of medals on Friday in their first international competition since March 2020

HEERENVEEN, NETHERLANDS – Despite not having competed domestically or internationally for over 10 months, it seems that Canada’s long track skaters did not miss a stride. They earned a pair of medals in the Team Pursuit – gold by the women and bronze by the men – on the opening day of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.

It marked a successful start to the condensed international long track season for the Canadian team, who are competing against the world’s top skaters in a series of events (two World Cup, one World Championship) in a “bubble” environment over the next four weeks.

The women’s team of Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, Ont.), Isabelle Weidemann (Ottawa, Ont.) and Valérie Maltais (Saguenay, Que.) won gold with a time of 2:56.718, ahead of the Netherlands (2:57.040) and Norway (2:59.247). The trio finished last season atop the World Cup rankings after winning three medals (one gold, one silver and one bronze) on the circuit. They also earned bronze at the World Single Distance Championships.

On the men’s side, Ted-Jan Bloemen (Calgary, Alta.), Jordan Belchos (Toronto, Ont.) and Connor Howe (Canmore, Alta.) completed the distance in 3:41.711 to claim bronze, behind Norway (3:41.628) and the Netherlands (3:40.332). The Canadian men earned World Cup silver and bronze last season and finished just off the World Championship podium in fourth place.

The men’s third-place performance led to Howe’s first career World Cup medal. The 20-year old middle distance specialist, who debuted on the World Cup circuit last season, was skating in the spot occupied by Tyson Langelaar (Winnipeg, Man.) during the 2019-2020 campaign.

Action concluded on Friday with the Mass Start semifinals, which saw Canadians Belchos, Maltais and defending world champion Blondin all advanced. The ISU World Cup continues tomorrow, where the 500m(1), 1500m and Mass Start finals are on the schedule.

CBC Sports will have live streaming coverage of Saturday’s races beginning at 8:15am ET, as well as televised coverage as part of their ‘Road to the Olympic Games’ program at 12:00pm ET. Visit the schedule for broadcast and streaming times in your area.