With a new track record and a back-to-back win Canada’s ladies successfully defended their Team Pursuit overall World Cup title on Friday. Ivanie Blondin, Valérie Maltais and Isabelle Weidemann finished their six laps at Thialf in 2:54.64, more than a second faster than Japan’s 2017 track record (2:55.77). The Netherlands came second and Norway third.
Despite a rough run-up to the season due to Covid-19 restrictions and a malfunctioning ice-rink at home, Canada’s ladies surprised themselves by winning last weekend’s opening Team Pursuit race. But that success put pressure on the second outing, according to Valérie Maltais. “We keep surprising ourselves race after race,” she said. “After we won last week, there was a lot of pressure and we came with a totally different strategy.”
Canada kept change-ups to a minimum as they won the ladies' Team Pursuit for a second week running © International Skating Union (ISU)
Change of tactics
Like the Norwegian men before them, Blondin, Maltais and Weidemann had decided to make fewer change-ups in their race, because change-ups cost time. “Last weekend we were changing every lap, and now we had Isabelle doing four full laps up front,” said Maltais. “We wanted to see how that would go.”
And it went well. Maltais went on: “It’s quite a big difference, but we’ve always skated together as a group and, Ivanie and me, we’re coming from short-track so we’re really comfortable touching and pushing. This way we were trying to put our strength to our advantage.”
Beating Japan ‘virtually’
Maltais was especially proud of taking the track record off the Japanese, who have been so dominant in recent years. “We beat them [Japan] virtually,” she jokes. “Of course we need to acknowledge that they were not here and they’re strong. We should be ready for the moment that everybody will be present again.”
The Netherlands ladies also beat the previous Thialf track record on their way to second place © International Skating Union (ISU)
With a time of 2:55.58, the Netherlands, who skated in a different line-up than last week, were also faster than the previous track record. Antoinette de Jong feels that her team could beat Canada at the ISU World Championships in Heerenveen in February.
“This was the first time we skated together,” she said. “We did not have the opportunity to train together last week, so we were not really used to each other yet. I had a little difficulty with the corners and pushing at the right moment. But we have a solid base. I think we can do better."
Netherlands, Canada and Norway receiving their Team Pursuit medals in Heerenveen © International Skating Union (ISU)
Where to Watch
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