Morrison & Blondin top Canadians

Denny Morrison and Ivanie Blondin top Canadians at World Cup in Kazakhstan

ASTANA, Kazakhstan
– Denny Morrison and Ivanie Blondin were Canada’s top long track skaters today at the Essent ISU World Cup at the Alau Ice Palace in Astana, Kazakhstan, placing sixth in the men’s 1,500 metres and ninth in the women’s 5,000 metres. The men’s pursuit team placed fourth out of 12 countries.

Sunday's races will feature the women's 1,500 metres and team pursuit and men's 10,000 metres.

In the men’s 1,500-metre division A, Morrison, of Fort St. John, B.C., was sixth in a time of 1:46.70 and Regina’s Lucas Makowsky was in 13th place in 1:47.83. American Shani Davis took the gold medal in a time of 1:46.01. Havard Bokko of Norway earned the silver medal in 1:46.34, and Zbigniew Brodka of Poland had bronze in 1:46.42.

“This week’s 1,500 metres (sixth place in 1:46.70) was quite a bit better than last weekend (in Kolomna, Russia) where I was 19th (1:48.66) and the week before (in Heerenveen, Netherlands) 13th," said Morrison. "It was not just the placing (this week), but also the time. I was just a few tenths off the podium. I just feel competitive again. It’s a good foundation and something I can build off of.

"I think coming off the 1,000-metre win from the first race of the first World Cup (in Heerenveen, Netherlands), I tried to take that 1,000-metre technique into the 1,500s and kind of botched them all up," noted Morrison. "It’s interesting how such small changes can make a huge difference in my efficiency and final time.”

Winnipeg’s Tyler Derraugh won the 1,500-metre division B in a time of 1:48.78. Fellow Winnipegger, Stefan Waples took 17th place in division B with a time of 1:52.76. Photo right: Derraugh on podium for gold medal in 1,500 metres division B.

In the women’s division A 5,000 metres, Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin skated to ninth place in a time of 7:15.77. Winnipeg’s Brittany Schussler finished in eighth place in division B crossing the finish line in 7:15.06. Martina Sábliková of the Czech Republic won gold in a track record of 7:00.75. Germany’s Claudia Pechstein took the silver medal in 7:01.05 and Russia’s Olga Graf had bronze in 7:01.38. The previous women’s 5,000-metre record at the Alau Ice Palace was 7:08.92 set in January of this year.

For a second time this season, Canada finished in fourth place in men's pursuit. Toronto’s Jordan Belchos, Morrison and Makowsky teamed-up to finish in 3:44.79. The Netherlands won their second gold medal of the season in 3:41.27. Korea won silver in 3:41.49 and Norway skated to the bronze medal in 3:43.43.

“We changed our strategy this week. Lucas, Jordan and I are used to doing a strategy we’ve done over and over again. So, the change in strategy had us a little confused on which corners we were switching on," added Morrison. "I can definitely take the blame on this race for really messing it up. We lost time here and there, yet we were only a second or so off the podium. I think easily we can make up two or three seconds without those really preventable errors."

The World Cup Podium Tracker by Intact Insurance stands at $21,000 (5 gold, 10 silver; 6 bronze). Intact Insurance will award $1,000 in cash and prizes to a local speed skating club with each individual medal win. This season’s 21st medal came today from Charles Hamelin, who won bronze in the 1,500 metres at the short track World Cup in Nagoya, Japan. The Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club will receive $1,000 from the program.

The Essent ISU World Cup #6, featuring the 500- and 1,000-metre sprint distances, will be held at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on Jan. 19 and 20. Ticket information and event details will be available shortly.