There have been five rounds so far, starting in November in the Far East before moving across Europe and into North America. The events change slightly from one World Cup destination to the next but the main events are the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, and a long distance. The long distance is normally 3000m for women and 5000m for men but in Stavanger, they move up to 5000m and 10000m respectively. There are three events that have team pursuit and three that have a team sprint with two that have a mixed relay event for something a little different again.
The 2023/24 Speed Skating World Cup started in Japan with the home skaters dominating in the men’s events. They would have a clean sweep of the podium in the first 500m event on day 1 before filling the top two spots in event two which was on day 3. Tatsuya Shinhama and Wataru Morishige would take a gold and a silver spot each in those contests.
Masaya Yamada would win gold in both the men’s 1000m and 1500m as the Canadian men struggled to pick up any points in the overall standings. The best finish was 4th for Canada by both Ted-Jan Bloemen in the 5000m and Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu in the mass start.
There was a success for Ivanie Blondin in the women’s mass start event. The Ottawa native and 2022 Winter Olympics gold medalist has always been a specialist in these long-distance events and so it proved once more as she comfortably landed the most points in the contest.
Round 2 of the Speed Skating World Cup was a more successful one for Team Canada, picking up four medals. Laurent Dubreuil picked up a silver in the second event of the men’s 500m but once more it was the women who made Canada proud, picking up their other three medals.
Blondin was only able to pick up a silver in the mass start to go with her gold from Japan but she also picked up another medal of the same colour in the team sprint event. The mass start saw a pair on the podium with Valerie Maltais on the third step with a bronze medal.
Into Europe for round 3 and no surprise that here the Netherlands got plenty of medals on the board. Three medals came back with Canadian athletes with Boemen getting himself on the podium in the 1000m. Dubreuil continued to disappoint in his defence of the 500m crown that he won in the 2022-23 season, finishing 6th and 18th in the two races.
Two medals for the women came from Maltais picking up a silver in the mass start and the team sprint added a bronze to their silver from China. The mass start was a dramatic affair that saw 10 of the 16 starters disqualified!
Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland
Laurent Dubreuil finally came to play in Poland, finishing second in the first of the two men’s 500m events and then winning the second. He and Gao Tingyu split the decisions with 0.07 of a second separating them in the first contest and 0.06 in the second. Those narrow margins are why it is such an exciting sport to watch, even for those who have never done so before, each man on the ice against the clock.
The women won a pair of silver medals as Ivanie Blondin got back on the podium in the mass start race while the team pursuit also landed a medal. That team event has been strong for Canada in this Speed Skating World Cup season which is no surprise given the pedigree they have in the event.
Salt Lake City, United States
The most recent event took place just last weekend in Salt Lake City. Home ice proved to be a great benefit for the USA with Jordan Stolz enjoying a monster weekend. Stolz won the 500m, both 1000m races as well as the 1500m. Just 19 years old, he is a future star in the sport for the US. Dubreuil was runner-up to Stolz in the 500m to add some more points to his total.
It was further success for the women’s team pursuit, picking up gold on this occasion as they continued to clock up the medals in this event. Maltais added a bronze to her seasonal haul in the women’s 3000m.
Blondin and Maltais continued their success in the mass start, picking up the gold and bronze medals respectively to produce a good haul back on North American soil. That should set them up perfectly for the World Cup in Quebec to finish the season on a high.
So in the five events so far, Canada has picked up four gold, 10 silver and five bronze for a total of 19 which has them sitting in 5th place in the medal table. It is a step down from the eight gold, 14 silver and eight bronze that Team Canada produced in the 2022-23 Speed Skating World Cup when two of the rounds were held in Canada. They have Quebec to pad out those totals though.