Blondin, Nesbitt & Schussler win bronze

Blondin, Nesbitt and Schussler win bronze in team pursuit at World Cup in the Netherlands
Six Canadians place in top 10 in individual races

HEERENVEEN, Netherlands
– There would be no individual medals today for Canada at the Essent ISU World Cup at the Thialf Ice Stadium in Heerenveen, Netherlands, but the women’s pursuit team won the bronze medal. Six Canadian women and 10 men took part in a total of eight races on the last day of competition, with six skaters ranking in the top 10 of individual division A races.

Skating in the final pair with Russia, Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin, Christine Nesbitt, from London, Ont., and Winnipeg’s Brittany Schussler teamed-up to take the bronze medal in women’s team pursuit in a time of three minutes and 2.337 seconds – only 0.006 seconds from second place. Germany won the gold medal in 3:01.14 and the Netherlands earned the silver (3:02.331).

“We had a rough day in the team pursuit. We're obviously happy we can have a rough day and walk away with a bronze medal,” said Schussler. “It was nice to get a new skater out there (Blondin) and get her a World Cup medal. It was a tight race. We were tied for second, (and) then placed in third by thousandths of seconds - it was a mini heartbreaker at the end. I think for next time we need to practice skating a little more as a team.”

In the men’s second 500-metre race of the weekend, Calgary’s Gilmore Junio missed his first World Cup medal by five one-thousandths of a second. With a best-ever fourth place at a World Cup, the 22-year-old had a time of 35.157 seconds. Korea’s Tae-Bum Mo edged Junio for the bronze medal in a time of 35.152 seconds. Joji Kato, from Japan, won gold in 34.98 seconds and Jan Smeekens, from the Netherlands had silver (35.04).

“Yesterday wasn't a good race for me (9th place in the first 500 metres), so today I wanted to go out and execute my points,” said Junio. “I think that's why I did so well. I skated the way I knew I could. It's a bit unfortunate at the end that I came so close to third place. It's the best I've ever finished, so there's a lot I can take out of the race.”

Canada’s other two skaters in the top 10 of the 500 metres were Edmonton’s Jamie Gregg in seventh place (35.34) and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix, from Sherbrooke, Que., in 10th position (35.36).

In a distance she has won gold since a fourth place finish at the World Cup final on March 6, 2011 (10 races), Nesbitt missed an edge in the second last lap of the 1,000 metres and lost valuable time to still finish in 10th place in a time of one minute and 16.85 seconds. Skating in the last pair with Nesbitt, American Heather Richardson finished first in a time 1:15.27. Hong Zhang, from China, took second place (1:15.41), and Lotte van Beek, from the Netherlands, came in third spot (1:15.83).

There were four Canadian women in the top 10 of the division B 1,000 metres. Calgary’s Anastasia Bucsis was third in a time of one minute and 17.96 seconds, followed by Winnipeg’s Brittany Schussler in fourth place (1:18.33). Kali Christ, from Regina, took the seventh spot (1:18.80), while Kaylin Irvine, from Calgary, was 10th (1:19.42).

In the men’s division B 500 metres, Laurent Dubreuil, from Lévis, Que., finished in sixth place in a time of 35.90 seconds. William Dutton, from Humboldt, Sask., skated to a time of 36.63 seconds for the 19th spot.

In the men’s division A 1,500 metres, Denny Morrison, from Fort St. John, B.C., skated to a 13th place finish in a time of one minute and 47.58 seconds. Regina’s Lucas Makowsky took 17th place (1:48.38). Maurice Vriend, from the Netherlands, won the gold medal in 1:46.13, while Norwegians Havard Bokko (1:46.40) and Sverre Lunde Pedersen (1:46.54) had silver and bronze, respectively.

Winnipeg’s Tyler Derraugh recorded a 10th place finish in the division B 1,500 metres in a time of 1:50.11. Philippe Riopel, from Lachenaie, Que., was 24th (1:52.20).

In the men’s mass start, Toronto’s Jordan Belchos took eighth place and Tyler Derraugh, from Winnipeg, was 10th. Skating in the second mass start race, Philippe Riopel, from Lachenaie, Que., took 15th spot. The mass start ranking is determined by the accumulated race points gained from intermediate sprints and the final sprint.

“It was an intense race, a long race after a long weekend. It was a lot of fun. Jordan Belchos (8th place) and I worked out a plan where we wanted to get some preme (early intermediate sprint) points," said Derraugh. “We took points in the first two premes to get us a top 10 ranking. We executed pretty well, but made a few mistakes and still got points. It was a good learning lesson."

The second Essent ISU World Cup is in Kolomna, Russia, on Nov. 24 and 25. The second World Cup features these middle and long distances: 1,500 metres, 3,000 metres (women), 5,000 metres (men) and mass start.

The World Cup Podium Tracker by Intact Insurance stands at $18,000 (5 gold, 9 silver; 4 bronze). Intact Insurance will award $1,000 in cash and prizes to a local speed skating club with each individual medal win. The last two seasons, Intact Insurance awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes.

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.