Canada's Ivanie Blondin misses long track podium in women's 3,000m
Ottawa native places 6th in 4 minutes, 4.14 seconds as Dutch finish 1-2-3
By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
Canadian speed skater Ivanie Blondin was kept off the Olympic podium Saturday, placing sixth in the women's 3,000-metre final in four minutes, 4.14 seconds at the Gangneung Oval.
Her teammates, Isabelle Weidemann (4:04.26) and Brianne Tutt (4:13.70) were seventh and 20th, respectively, as the Dutch trio of Carlijn Achtereekte, Ireen Wüst and Antoinette de Jong finished 1-2-3.
Click on the video below to watch Ivanie Blondin's 3,000m race:
"It's frustrating, it's disappointing and I can't really explain the Dutch sweep again," Blondin said. "It happened in Sochi and it happened now and we haven't seen it really for four years. Explanation? I have no idea."
The 28-year-old Achtereekte, whose only career world championship medal was a silver in the 5,000 in 2015, came out of nowhere to win the event as the native of Lettele, Netherlands, was one of the lower-seeded competitors, skating in the fifth pairing of 12.
"I thought I had to skate the best race of my life and I did it," Achtereekte said. "It went perfectly what I had in my head, the plan, the rounds, and the times."
Blondin is ranked among the world's best in the 3,000 and was trying to become the first Canadian woman since Kristina Groves in 2010 at Vancouver (bronze) to medal in the event at the Winter Games. Cindy Klassen also finished third at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and in 2006 in Turin, Italy.
"I think she expected more in terms of time," Groves, an analyst for CBC Sports at these Olympics, said of Blondin, who was 24th in the 3,000 at her Olympic debut four years ago in Sochi, Russia. "But it's not far off this year's times [for her]."
'I was nervous all day'
Blondin, 27, arrived in Pyeongchang, South Korea with confidence after winning gold at the final pre-Olympic World Cup in Erfurt, Germany.
"Sixth position isn't exactly what I wanted especially after two weeks ago getting a gold medal in Erfurt and pretty much all the same girls were skating in Erfurt," Blondin said. "I was trying to talk to myself all day to not stress out and not be nervous, but you can't really control those things. I was nervous all day."
Added Groves: "You can't come to the Olympics and it's going to go crazy [with significantly reduced performance times]. You can only do what you've done over and over."
Blondin, who hails from Ottawa, will compete in the 5,000 on Feb. 16, team pursuit Feb. 19-21 and mass start on Feb. 24, which makes its Olympic debut and features up to 24 skaters racing 16 laps at the same time with points awarded for three intermediate sprints during the race and the final sprint to the finish.
"I screwed up my 3k, but I still have more distances to focus on," Blondin said. "I'm probably going to dwell on it a little bit after this. It's only human to do that. But five days until I start racing again, I think that's plenty of time to re-focus and be on the right track."
Wüst, Pechstein share all-time medal mark
For Weidemann, who is competing at her first Olympics, she has now finished in the top 10 in her four 3,000 races this season, matching her season best Saturday.
Earlier this season, the 22-year-old Ottawa native narrowly missed her first individual World Cup medal with a fourth-place performance in the season's only 5,000 in Stavanger, Norway. However, she did earn team pursuit bronze medals this season in Heerenveen, Netherlands, and Calgary.
On Saturday, she was paired with Wüst, now a nine-time Olympic medallist who was seeking her third gold in the 3,000. With four gold overall, she is one shy of the record by a speed skater at the Winter Games. The nine medals ties Wüst with Claudia Pechstein of Germany for the all-time record for career speed skating medals.
Like Blondin, Weidemann will race the 5,000 and team pursuit in Gangneung.
Tutt of Airdrie, Alta., moved her training to China this season and has battled back from a career-threatening injury suffered in 2012 when she was hit from behind during practice at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. On Dec. 1, the 25-year-old recorded a personal-best 4:02:42 at a World Cup in Calgary.
"Given how Tutt has skated this year, she might be disappointed with this result," said Groves of Saturday's performance. "It's maybe not the best time she could have done. It's a bit of a miss for me."
Track record threatened
Early in Saturday's race against American Carlijn Schoutens, Tutt's tempo was a little slow in the corner but solid in the straightaway.
"I want to see quick, long strides and more rhythm in the corners," said Groves of Tutt, who was 34th in the 1,500 at her first Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Achtereekte, who made her Olympic debut in the 3,000, was ranked 21st after the World Cup in Erfurt and wasn't expected to medal in South Korea. Crossing the finish line in 3:59.21, she missed the track record by .16 of a second and beat three Olympic champions in Martina Sáblíková, 30, of the Czech Republic, Wüst and the 45-year-old Pechstein, who became the first woman to compete in seven Winter Olympics.
De Jong, who stopped the clock in 4:00.02 on Saturday, is considered by some to be the next Wüst after the 22-year-old also beat her teammate in the 3,000 at the Dutch Olympic qualifiers. De Jong secured the Netherlands' first gold medal of the 2017-18 season at Heerenveen in November in 4:03.53.
Of the 38 gold medals for the Netherlands at the Olympic Winter Games, speed skating has produced 36 and 108 of its 113 medals overall.
With files from The Canadian Press