Although she wasn’t pleased with her time, Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin skated well enough to win the women’s 5,000 metres at the Canadian Olympic speedskating trials on Friday.
“I was really nervous for it,” said Blondin, who finished in a time of seven minutes 18.45 seconds to win the race by less than half a second.
“I’m a little surprised with the time and disappointed. It shouldn’t have been that close and I shouldn’t have skated probably one of the worst times I’ve skated in like two years.”
Blondin finished ahead of Edmonton’s Nicole Garrido, who had a time of 7:18.87, and Josie Spence of Kamloops, B.C., at 7:23.24.
“I wouldn’t say I skated really well, but I’m obviously happy that I came out on top today,” Blondin said. “I think it’s kind of a miracle that I did.”
Blondin’s result will be good enough to earn her a spot to compete for Canada in the 5,000 metres at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, according to Sean Ireland, Speed Skating Canada’s long-track program director.
“She would be the first person in that provisional quota spot,” Ireland said.
Canada’s team, which will consist of 10 women and eight men for all disciplines, will be officially announced on Jan. 22.
Four years ago Blondin competed at both the short-track and long-track speedskating Olympic trials, but failed to earn a spot to compete at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
“I developed ulcers in my stomach because I was so nervous and stressed out,” said Blondin, who finished second in the 3,000 metres on the first day of the Olympic trials last Saturday. “This time around it’s been a lot better, but it’s still stressful.
“Sometimes I feel like the general public doesn’t really realize how much stress you put on your body when you go through these Olympic trials. It’s nice to watch and see and everything, but being in it I’ve probably got like five grey hairs from this, even though I’m 23.”
Blondin will now take a couple days to relax before heading to Tucson, Arizona to attend a pre-Olympic training camp.
“I think it’ll be nice to get away and relax and just calm down a little bit from these Olympic trials,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think she will battle as many nerves in Sochi.
“Now that the Olympic trials are over and just being at the Games, I’ll have a lot less pressure because realistically I don’t have anything to lose when I’m there.”
While Blondin believes she did enough to qualify to compete for Canada in three events (5,000 metres, 3,000 metres and women’s team pursuit) in Sochi, Toronto’s Jordan Belchos will have to wait to find out his fate after winning the men’s 10,000 metres with a time of 13:24.96 on Friday.
Winnipeg’s Stefan Waples finished second in 13:53.65, while Francois Dery of St. Jean Chrysostome, Que., placed third at 13:58.30.
Whether Belchos gets to compete for Canada at the Games depends on what other countries do, said Ireland.
“Currently we do not have a quota spot for the Olympics themselves in the 10,000 metres,” Ireland said. “We have the first reserve spot, so if another country declines a 10,000 spot, well then there’s a chance that we might be able to fill that depending on our own quotas.”
Belchos said he’d rather be in a state of limbo, than not have any chance at all to compete at the Winter Olympics.
“I’d rather be in this situation than be out,” he said. “I don’t know what the chances are or anything like that. I’m just trying to skate and be prepared if that happens.”
That’s the right attitude for Belchos to have, Ireland said.
“My advice would be to train and prepare knowing that there’s a chance,” said Ireland, adding that he should know whether another country declines a spot in the 10,000 by mid-January. “It’s slim chance at that.”
Until he finds out his fate, Belchos said that he will continue his usual training regimen.
“The next two weeks for me are just about getting away from skating and just training to be an Olympian, but knowing it could not happen,” he said. “I’m in a position where if it doesn’t happen, it’s almost what I expect. If it does, it would be a pleasant surprise. It’s tough to be in such a weird spot.”