Ivanie Blondin used a new tactic during her race on Friday. She imagined Ted-Jan Bloemen, Canada's newly crowned Olympic speed skating champion skating in front of her, as she zipped around the ice trying to catch the world's fastest man on skates.
"Kind of like I was the bunny and he was my carrot," said the skater from Ottawa.
A day after Bloemen won the men's 10,000m race in dramatic fashion, crushing Dutch speed skating legend Sven Kramer in a decisive gold-medal win, the stunning victory has provided extra motivation to the Canadian team. The gold medal, which Canadian officials say is a historic moment for the program, was the first time the country has made the podium in the sport's signature event since 1932.
"He's such a great inspiration and he's a great mentor and one of my best friends on the team," said Blondin, who often skates with Bloemen during training. "I couldn't be happier for my teammate."
Unfortunately, the visualization exercise wasn't enough to put Blondin on the podium in the women's 5,000m race, but it did push her to a solid sub-seven-minute time.
Blondin, 27, was a bronze medalist in the 5,000m at last year's world championships and had a shot at a medal in Pyeongchang. She finished in fifth place, with a time of 6:59.38, which was 9.15 seconds behind the winner.
Her teammate, Isabelle Weidemann, finished sixth in a time of 6:59.88, which was 9.65 seconds off the leader.
Dutch skater Esmee Visser won the gold medal in a time of 6:50.23, while the Czech Republic's Martina Sablikova took the silver, 1.62 seconds behind, and Russia's Natalia Veronica claimed the bronze medal, 3.75 seconds back.
Visser's win means that the powerhouse Dutch speed skating team has claimed six of the seven gold medals awarded so far.
Only Bloemen, a former Dutch skater whose father was born in New Brunswick, has been able to knock the Netherlands off the top of the podium.
Bloemen, who has won two medals at these Olympics, including a silver in the men's 5,000m race, moved to Canada in 2014 because he figured he'd never get a shot to race for the Netherlands at the Olympics with too many skaters ahead of him in the pecking order.
His relocation has helped return Canadian speed skating to gold-medal territory after an eight-year hiatus. Canada won two gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, including Christine Nesbitt's victory in the women's 1000m race, and another in the men's team pursuit.
While Bloemen has credited Speed Skating Canada for helping him become the skater he is today, by focusing his training and giving him the opportunity to succeed, he's also had an impact on the skaters around him.
Training partner Jordan Belchos said Bloemen has fostered a belief in the Canadian squad that the Dutch, the world's best speed skaters at every Olympics, are not untouchable.
Blondin said Bloemen's presence on the Canadian team, and his gold medal, are having a positive influence.
"It's such a great feeling, and such an honour also, to be so close to an Olympic gold medalist and Olympic champion," Blondin said.