Canada’s long distance ladies kicked off the ISU World Cup speed skating season in fine style on Friday. Isabelle Weidemann (CAN) won the 3000m in Minsk, Belarus, with teammate Ivanie Blondin (CAN) taking the bronze. The Netherlands won the ladies’ Team Sprint.
Career second gold
Weidemann took the second World Cup gold of her career, after having won the 3000m on the outdoor track in Tomakomai (JPN) last year, when she beat Martina Sáblíková (CZE) in a track record.
Isabelle Weidemann (CAN) winning gold in the ladies' 3000m in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday © International Skating Union
In front of an excited crowd in the Minsk Arena, Weidemann started in the sixth pairing, after Olympic champion Carlijn Achtereekte (NED) had beaten compatriot Antoinette de Jong (NED) in the fifth pairing. Achtereekte stopped the clock at 4 minutes and 5.15 seconds.
Weideman took on Olympic 5000m champion Esmee Visser (NED), who was a little bit ahead at halfway in the race, but did not have the stamina to keep up with her own pace, let alone Weidemann's. The Canadian went from 32.1 second laps to 31.9 second laps. She came less than a second short of Sáblíková's track record (4:03.79), but with 4:04.67 she was the only one to finish under 4:05.
Blondin finished in 4:06.08, leaving the silver medal to Achtereekte, and her pairmate Marina Zueva (BLR) pleased the home crowd by fighting to sixth place in 4:07.80.
Sáblíková, yet to show her best form this season, skated in the final pair versus Natalya Voronina (RUS), who took the initiative before being overtaken in the final lap. Both skaters missed out on the podium. Sáblíková came fourth in 4:06.40 and last season's World Cup No.3 Voronina had to settle for a disappointing seventh place in 4:08.07.
Golden debut for Michelle de Jong
Netherlands ladies en route to gold in the Team Sprint in the Minsk Arena © International Skating Union
The Netherlands ruled the Team Sprint. Michelle de Jong (NED), the younger sister of European Allround champion Antoinette, made her World Cup debut, together with Jutta Leerdam and Letitia de Jong (NED). Leerdam and Letitia de Jong took last year's world title with Janine Smit (NED), but Smit did not qualify for this year's World Cup races. Twenty-year-old Michelle de Jong lived up to her promise and launched the Dutch team to a time of 1 minute and 29.23 seconds.