Canada’s Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann came fifth and sixth after an impressive competition in the women’s 5,000-metre speed skating event at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Dutch skater Annouk van der Weijden set the pace right from the beginning. She was in the first pair of skaters to hit the ice. Her time of 6:54.17 stood until the fourth pair of skaters when her teammate Esmee Visser beat it with a blazing fast 6:50.23, which would earn her the gold.
Blondin started quickly, perhaps to meet Visser’s pace, but was unable to maintain it throughout the race. She slowed a lot in the last lap, even stumbling slightly as she came to the finish line. She finished in 6:59.38. Weidemann, also an Ottawa native, finished sixth with a time of 6:59.88.
Czech skater Martina Sablikova and Natalia Voronina, competing as an Olympic athlete from Russia, were the final pair. Sablikova took home the silver and Voronina the bronze, knocking Blondin out of medal contention.
Veteran German skater Claudia Pechstein, 45, came in eighth place out of twelve skaters. Pechstein went to her first Olympics in 1992, and won the bronze in this event, nearly four years before the current gold medal winner Visser was even born.
Third at last year’s world single distance championships in the 5,000 at the Gangneung Oval, the 27-year-old Blondin also took second at a World Cup earlier this season.
She was 14th in the 5,000 at her first Olympics four years ago in Sochi, Russia.
Expected to win a medal in last Saturday’s 3,000 after grabbing gold at a World Cup just before these Games, Blondin was left bewildered when she wound up a disappointing sixth in a race that saw the Netherlands sweep the podium, seemingly out of nowhere.
Blondin will now turn her focus to Wednesday’s team pursuit before concluding her program in South Korea with her favourite race, the mass start, on Feb. 24.
Blondin’s other two world single distance championships medals – including gold in 2016 – have come in the mass start, which will be making its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.
The 22-year-old Weidemann, who’s competing at her first Olympics, will close out her Games in the team pursuit.
–With files from the Canadian Press