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Speedskaters sizzle on oval

Winnipeg's Schussler qualifies for World Cup circuit in 4 distances

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Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler will be seeing lots of ice time on the World Cup circuit this season.

JEFF MCINTOSH / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler will be seeing lots of ice time on the World Cup circuit this season.

CALGARY -- Ivanie Blondin is skating against men every day, which she feels makes her faster against women.

The Ottawa speedskater won both the women's 3,000 metres and 5,000 metres at Canadian trials that concluded Sunday at Calgary's Olympic Oval.

She'll represent Canada at World Cups this fall and the first is Nov. 8-10 on her home track in Calgary. The 23-year-old also has an eye on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Blondin is part of a long-distance training group formed this season under coach Mark Wild. As the only female distance specialist on the national team, Blondin pits herself daily against five men.

"It pushes me to a level I don't think I'd be able to push myself to on my own," she said. "I think it's a great opportunity, especially this year being an Olympic year, being able to train that hard.

"Everything just seems to be coming along really well this year. They just push me harder and I'm training well every day, which means in the end, I'm going to be a stronger skater."

The top five skaters in each distance at trials qualified for the World Cup circuit, except for the men's 5,000 and 10,000, in which just the top three earned the right to race.

Blondin posted a time of seven minutes 12.65 seconds to win Sunday's five-kilometre race. She was almost five seconds faster than runner-up Nicole Garrido of Edmonton.

Josie Spence of Kamloops, B.C., Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler and Ottawa's Lauren McGuire finished third to fifth respectively. Schussler skated her fourth distance in as many days and also qualified for the Canadian team in the 3,000, 1,500 and 1,000 metres.

Toronto's Jordan Belchos won the men's 10,000 metres in 13 minutes 40.33 seconds.

Belchos and Janssens are in Blondin's daily training group at the Oval.

"Some days are pretty funny because I give them a run for their money," Blondin said. "I grew up with my older brother four years older. I always wanted to try to beat him obviously."

Her coach believes the training environment has honed Blondin's skating skills.

"It's really elevated her quality of training," Wild said. "Her technique in training is improved."

Olympic 1,000-metre champion Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., leads the long-track team into the 2013-14 season.

"Looking at the World Cups specifically, we're just looking at getting prepared for Sochi," said Sean Ireland, long-track director for Speed Skating Canada.

"Our top skaters, we hope they're podium performing or top five in terms of athletes that have medal potential, individual as well as team pursuit."

Winnipeg's Cindy Klassen, winner of five medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, did not compete because of a concussion and did not ask for a bye.

NOTE: Winnipeg's Heather McLean will make her World Cup debut this year.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2013 C16

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