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Stolz primed for three-peat Sunday after second straight win at Calgary speedskating event

Speedskating phenom Jordan Stolz continued his bid for another world championship three-peat while Canadians earned double silver medals in the turbulent mass starts Saturday.

The 19-year-old Stolz won the men’s 1,000 metres a day after his 500 victory. He became the first male to win world championship gold in three individual distances last year. 

A victory in Sunday’s 1,500 metres at Calgary’s Olympic Oval would replicate the hat trick.

“If I can get three again, that’d be amazing,” the American said.

Dutchwoman Irene Schouten and Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin repeated their Olympic Games one-two finish in women’s mass start. Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., claimed silver in the men’s mass start behind victorious Bart Swings of Belgium.

Mass starts bring the physical contact of short-track speedskating and cycling’s cat-and-mouse tactics and chases to the long-track oval.

Despite a fall early in the 16-lap race, Schouten worked her way back into the pack and caught Blondin at the line in the final sprint.

“It was pretty chaotic,” Blondin said. “I’m faster than her in the corners and that’s where I got ahead of her, but her straightaways are a little bit stronger than mine. 

“Also just fatigue-wise, I think I was a little burned. I closed a lot of gaps and worked really hard throughout that entire race.”

The 33-year-old has finished either first or second five straight years in mass start at the world championship. Blondin helped Canada’s women win sprint gold and team pursuit silver in Calgary.

“Silver just keeps the fuel going,” Blondin said. “I’m already fired up for next season.”

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Valerie Maltais of Sherbrooke, Que., and Blondin ranked first and second respectively in the season’s World Cup standings in mass start. Maltais crashed with about three laps to go in a collision with Schouten.

“I fell because of her,” Maltais said. “She was coming on the outside just like trying to make her way into the pack and she cut me off. It’s unfortunate that happened.”

Gelinas-Beaulieu’s silver medal was the top international result of his career in an individual event. His asthma is aggravated by Calgary’s dry air so he’s been carrying a small humidifier in his hand in the oval.

“I’m full of emotion right now,” the 31-year-old said. “At the Olympic Games, I wasn’t in the race. It was attack after attack and I wasn’t even able to be part of the race because I wasn’t fit enough at the time.

“After that last Olympics I told myself if I want to do it in four years, I have to work toward that and work more on the fitness side than on the sprint side.

“I really focused on the mass start to be able to survive one of those races and today it was one of those races. That really is a stepping stone for me.”

Team dynamics have emerged in mass starts with skaters from the same country working together to chase down breakaways. Gelinas-Beaulieu thanked teammate Jake Weidemann for his help.

“He worked for me a lot in the race. This medal is also his medal because it’s kind of a team event when you’re able to be two,” Gelinas-Beaulieu explained. “He was always there to help me move through people.” 

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Stolz posted a track-record time in the 1,000 metres of one minute 6.05 seconds less than a month after setting a world record of 1:05.37 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

China’s Zhongyan Ning, Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands and Canada’s Laurent Dubreuil ranked second to fourth.

Japan’s Miho Takagi took the women’s 500 metres in 1:12.83. China’s Mei Han was the silver medallist and Dutchwoman Jutta Leerdam took bronze.

The world single distance championship concludes Sunday with the men’s and women’s 1,500 metres, women’s 5,000 metres and men’s 10k. 

Maltais will compete in both women’s races. Isabelle Weidemann will race the 5k after taking silver behind Schouten in the 3,000 metres.

The host Canadian team has collected six medals including two gold in team sprints, which aren’t Olympic events. The Netherlands leads with seven medals, including four gold.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2024.

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