Long Track World Championships: Maltais and Blondin, a Thunderous Duo

(Calgary) Valérie Maltais and Ivanie Blondin Discover Strength in Unity

In Calgary, Valérie Maltais and Ivanie Blondin have realized their combined strength surpasses their individual prowess.

Holding the first and second world ranking positions respectively in women’s group start speed skating, Maltais and Blondin establish a fearsome tandem for Canada, competing in a discipline that brings to mind a game of cat and mouse.

Carrying the hopes of 19 Canadian women, these two are gearing up for the World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships, a four-day event kicking off on Thursday at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. The cream of the crop in global skating will clash in 12 individual and four team events.

Hosting the World Single Distance Championships for the first time in 25 years, Calgary’s Olympic Oval is no stranger to international tournaments, having staged the Sprint World Championships in 2017 and the World Championships on four occasions between 1992 and 2015.

The group start, a relatively new addition to the rich historical tapestry of speed skating, involves strategic positioning in a 16-lap race, with skaters vying for points allocated during intermediate sprints.

Ottawa native Blondin is a double-world champion and silver medal winner at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

In group starts, a teamwork-focused approach is advocated. One skater works for another similar to track cycling, acting as a block to catch up with breakaway skaters and creating a drafting effect.

Maltais, hailing from Saguenay, performed this task for Blondin in Beijing but chose to go solo in the 2022-2023 season. Maltais proposed a more collaborative partnership the previous year.

“This season, it’s the first time we are truly working together,” revealed Maltais. “Before that, I was working for Ivanie, and after the Olympics, we each went our separate ways. It was not a satisfying experience.

“At the end of last season… I expressed an earnest desire to work we work together. I didn’t want to be at your service or vice versa. But we should join forces to beat the Dutch team. I firmly believe we can accomplish this. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t want to participate in the group start. I find no joy in pent against all the other girls on my own.

“We’re both skilled skaters, we’re smart, and we’re very dexterous on the rink. I thought, ‘We should work together.’ We’ve proven that this season. It’s worked most of the time.”

The duo, both 33, come from a short track background and have placed in the top 4 of three out of six races this season.

Blondin has claimed two World Cup wins and secured two second-place finishes, although a disqualification in Norway marred her scorecard in December.

Maltais has squeezed into the top 6 in five races, clinching three podiums, earning her the season title.

Maltais and Blondin will participate in the 3000m at the World Single Distance Championships on Thursday. Canada poses a strong challenge in both men’s and women’s team sprints, as does Albertan Ted-Jan Bloemen in the 5000m men’s category.

Joining Maltais and Blondin, Ottawa’s Isabelle Weidemann will also attempt to retain their world team pursuit title on Friday. Meanwhile, Quebec sprinter Laurent Dubreuil and Jordan Stolz from the U.S. will face off again in the men’s 500m.

The group starts, along with men’s and women’s 1000m, are scheduled for Saturday. Sunday sees the men’s and women’s 1500m, women’s 5000m, and the men’s 10000m to wrap up the event.

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