Canada wins first two medals at speed skating World Junior Championships

(Zakopane, Poland, February 21, 2009) –- The snow stopped falling at Zakopane’s outdoor oval, just in time to see Canada’s Richard MacLennan (Sault Ste-Marie, ON) skate the day’s fastest time and win his first international speed skating medal, silver in the 500m combined. Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) followed three pairs later, winning bronze and giving Canada their first two medals at the world junior championships.

“It is a pretty unreal feeling,” said MacLennan, Canada’s junior champion, about picking up his first medal in international competition. “Yesterday I was a little bit nervous and today I woke up and felt really good. I had the one American guy (Whitmore) ahead of me and I knew I had the potential to be top five.”

MacLennan, 17, came first in today’s 500m in 36.63 seconds, helping him move up from yesterday’s sixth place finish and post a second place combined time of 73.780. American Michell Whitmore, who was first in yesterday’s 500m race, won the gold medal with his combined time of 73.120. He raced Blais-Dufour in the last 500m pair today.

“I was there with the fastest guy in the last pair and I knew that Richard did a pretty good time before us. I knew I had to stick with the American,” said Blais-Dufour, who finished fourth today and third overall with a combined time of 73.830, to win the bronze medal. “After my 500 yesterday I knew I could skate for a medal. I didn’t put pressure on myself and just skated for fun and the result was perfect for me.”

Blais-Dufour, who is both a short and long track speed skater, finished the 1500m in seventh and in the 5000m he came 26th. He now ranks eight overall in the competition, the same rank he placed at the 2009 World Junior Short Track Championships.

In women’s competition, Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, ON) came fifth in the 3000m in 4:27.44. The winners of the distance were Yvonne Nauta, from the Netherlands, Do-Yeoung Park, from Korea, and Roxanne Van Hemert, from the Netherlands, in 4:21.54, 4:24.82 and 4:25.98 respectively.
“I used my race yesterday to do better today, and it went really well,” said Blondin, 19. “About in the third or fourth lap, I saw that my paced dropped down, so I picked it up right away and finished my race really hard. I am really happy with my results.”

Blondin was the top Canadian in the women’s 1000m race as well, coming 14th with a time of 1:23.46. She now sits in seventh place overall.

The rest of Canada’s junior women posted good results; Sarah Gregg (Edmonton, AB) came 21st in the 1000m and 20th in the 3000m, Brianne Tutt (Calgary, AB) came 44th in the 1000m and 19th in the 3000m and Kate Hanly (Calgary, AB) was 33rd in the 1000m.

In junior men’s competition MacLennan was 14th in the 1500m, Scott Bickerton (Nelson, BC) was seventh in the 5000m and 17th in the 1500m and William Dutton (Humboldt, SK) was seventh in the combined 500m and 38th in the 1500m.

Race results can be found on the event’s main web site at www.wjssch-zakopane2009.com.

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