OBIHIRO, Japan — Canada's women earned silver in team pursuit on Saturday at the season-opening speedskating World Cup in Obihiro, Japan.
The trio of Isabelle Weidemann, Valérie Maltais and Ivanie Blondin captured silver, only 1.22 seconds behind the hometown gold medallists from Japan.
"We felt very powerful and stayed in-synch very well," said Weidemann. "We’ve often struggled off the start, myself especially because I’m a little slower, but we nailed that aspect of it today.
"We’re happy to get this first one done and are looking forward to improving for the next one."
Racing in the final pair against their Dutch rivals, the Canadians charged back after a slow start thanks to consistent lap times, finishing the distance in 2:59.25.
The Japanese grabbed gold (2:58.03), while the Netherlands earned bronze (3:01.29).
The silver medal was Canada’s first on the World Cup stage since 2019 in Nagano. The reigning Olympic champions had previously won eight consecutive World Cup gold medals and four straight World Cup titles since the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
Reaching the podium in this weekend’s World Cup opener was made even more special given that the Canadian team was utilizing a unique new strategy for the very first time in international competition, ditching the traditional in-race exchanges and opting instead to have Maltais lead the group from start to finish.
“We’re pretty stoked," said Weidemann. "It was our first time trying this new strategy where we don’t exchange, so we weren’t super sure what to expect.
"We were very nervous to go out and try something new, but we’re very happy with today’s result."
A dozen other Canadian skaters were also in action on Saturday.
The Canadian men's squad of Connor Howe, David La Rue and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu finished sixth in their team pursuit with a time of 3:45.29, while Maltais earned the top result in an individual distance, finishing 10th in the 1,500 metres (1:57.76).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2023.
The Canadian Press