Morrison sets competition record while Blondin & Christ skate to personal bests on first day of 2015 World Allround Long Track Speed Skating Championships

Denny Morrison set a new competition record while Ivanie Blondin and Kali Christ both skated to new personal bests, allowing Canada to make a strong showing on home ice at Calgary's Olympic Oval, Saturday, on the first day of the 2015 ISU World Allround Long Track Speed Skating Championships.

Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) set a new World Allround Championship record when he skated to a time of 34.98 seconds on his way to winning the men's 500m race. Combined with his 11th-place result in the 5000m race that followed, the Canadian Olympic multimedalist was able to finish the day in fourth place overall, putting him 1.60 points away from the leader and in an excellent position to finish among the top-10 in overall standings in World Allround Championships.

“Of course, the best 500m skaters in the world weren't there today, but it's still an honour to be able to claim that record,” said Morrison. “I was right there in both races.”

Ted-Jan Bloemen (Calgary, AB), who is taking part in his first World Allround Championships for Canada after skating in two such competitions for the Netherlands (he finished fourth in 2010 in Heerenveen, Netherlands), was eighth in the men's 5000m and 22nd in the 500m to stand 16th in overall standings.

On the women's side, Blondin (Ottawa, ON) and Christ (Regina, SK) skated to personal bests in both events of the day, to stand fourth and eighth, respectively, in overall standings after the first day of the two-day competition. Blondin and Christ were 4.98 and 5.68 points away from American skater Heather Richardson, the provisional overall leader after she won the women's 500m and set a new World Allround Championship record in that distance, with a time of 37.11 seconds.

“Fourth afther the first day, that's great! I wasn't expecting to do that well,” said Blondin.

“Being eighth overall after day 1 is pretty exciting, especially since my best distance, the 1500m, is still to come,” said Christ. “So far, things have gone almost perfectly and my goal is to skate my best 1500m ever and to qualify for Sunday's 5000m event.”

The top-8 male skaters and the first eight female skaters in overall standings after Sunday's 1500m races will go on to skate in the women's 5000m and men's 10 000m events, and go for the World Allround Championship title. Canadian skaters can look forward to improving on their overall standings on Sunday, notably Morrison, who has done well in the 1500m throughout his career, winning a bronze medal in that distance at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, in addition to finishing second in the 1500m event at the 2007 and 2008 World Allround Championships.

“I wasn't able to set a personal best (Saturday) even though I was setting out to do that, but I'll definitely be shooting for a PB in the 1500m,” said Morrison.

Blondin, for her part, could come up with a memorable result if she qualifies for the women's 5000m on Sunday. One of her six World Cup medals this season has come in that distance (a bronze at the Seoul World Cup). Her five other medals were collected in mass start races.

A good start to the day
Christ and Blondin kicked off their day in impressive fashion by finishing second and fourth, respectively, in the women's 500m, with times of 38.67 and 38.93, both personal bests. Blondin then shaved close to one second off her personal best in the 3000m to finish the race in 4:04.03, while Christ skated to an 11th place finish in 4:06.99, beating her former personal best by over two seconds.

“I'm happy with my 500m, especially after slipping at the start. But that didn't prevent me from skating to a personal best. Being paired with Kali helped me to stay calm. I felt like we were skating in training,” said Blondin. “In the 3000m, I wasn't expecting such a good result because of how tired I am at this point of the season. But the crowd made all the difference. I couldn't hear myself breathe in the turns. The fans gave me a lot of energy.”

“I was worried about my sprinting habits after missing a lot of training in the short distances last fall due to an injury. It was hard to get it going in terms of speed but at the end, I was able to get a personal best,” said Christ. “In the 3000m, I started a little bit slow, but I stayed calm and finished strong.”

Czech skater Martina Sablikova, a two-time champion at this competition, was second overall in women's standings after winning the women's 3000m. Dutch athlete Ireen Wust, who is vying for her fifth consecutive World Allround title, was third in the women's 500m, and second in the 3000m, good for third place overall.

On the men's side, Sven Kramer of the Netherldands was first overall after winning the men's 5000m in 6:07.49. Russia's Denis Yuskov, bronze medalist at this competition last year, was second overall after finishing second behind Morrison in the men's 500m.

Morrison's winning time of 34.98 in the 500m, which was 0.13 seconds away from the personal best he set on Dec. 28, 2007 in Calgary, allowed him to finish 0.66 seconds ahead of Yuskov (35.64) and 0.80 seconds ahead of Poland's Zbigniew Brodka (35.78). Bloemen, who specializes in the longer distances, was 22nd in 37.03.

In the men's 5000m, Bloemen skated to a time of 6:22.40, good for eighth place, while Morrison was 11th in 6:25.01.

“I was on pace for a personal best until the last lap, where I was unable to keep the pace. My legs were burning and screaming at me to quit, but the crowd was amazing, they wanted me to do well, so they pushed me to keep fighting,” said Morrison.

“I didn't have any expectations in the 500m, because I didn't train much in that distance, but my time in the 5000m was really disappointing. I felt great in training (Friday), but in the race I didn't have any power in my legs anymore,” said Bloemen. “My chances of qualifying (for the 10 000m) are slim, but I'll be aiming for a personal best in the 1500m, to show I can still skate!”
 
The men's and women's 1500m races will be held Sunday, as well as the women's 5000m and the men's 10 000m events, starting at 11am, local time, at Calgary's Olympic Oval. Races will be broadcast on CBC at 5 pm and on cbcsports.ca at 4 pm (ET).
 
Tickets are available online at http://www.speedsk8.ca/tickets.html.
 
More information can be found on Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.

About Speed Skating Canada
Speed Skating Canada (SSC) is the governing body for competitive long track and short track speed skating in Canada. Founded in 1887, the association is comprised of 13 provincial and territorial branches representing more than 13,000 individual members, and counting. SSC believes that sport is an apprenticeship for life and prizes respect for others, integrity, excellence of effort, as well as a safe, healthy environment. SSC recognizes and values its outstanding volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. It also celebrates the 63 Olympic medals won by Canadian athletes since 1932, as well as the coaches, officials and other dedicated individuals who helped them on their journey.

SSC is proud to be affiliated with partners that share the same vision and values including our premium sponsor Intact Insurance, as well as our funding partners, the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, and WinSport Canada.

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For information:
Jeff MacKinnon   
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Email: jmackinnon@speedskating.ca
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Patrick Godbout
Communications & Media Relations Manager
Speed Skating Canada
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