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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette
   


(Posted 9:30 a.m., Feb. 23)
Parents of local Olympian couldn't be prouder of daughter's accomplishments

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Bob and Lise Blondin pose with a banner presented to them in commemoration of their daughter Ivanie's participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Fred Sherwin/Photo

When Robert and Lise Blondin watched their daughter Ivanie compete in her final event at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday, they did so with a sense of pride that comes with knowing the hard work and dedication it took to see what was once a childhood dream come true.

"When she was eight or nine she did a project on Myriam Bedard and at the end she wrote that her dream was to one day compete in the Olympics," recalls Bob Blondin.

Ivanie started skating when she was barely able to walk. Her first pair of skates were hand-me-downs she had found in the basement. She simply strapped them on and started skating without the benefit of a single lesson.

When Ivanie was five, her parents enrolled her in the Gloucester Skating Club's Can-Skate program. She was a natural, but there was only one teensy tiny problem, she preferred speeding around the ice to doing figures. Before long, Ivanie's figure skating instructor suggested she might be better off with the Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club. Her parents took the instructor's advice and the rest, as they say is history.

Ivanie excelled in short track speed skating through her formative years and won multiple provincial and national titles. She was on track to achieve her dream of one day competing in the Olympics.

After making the national development team in 2008, Ivanie set her sights on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Unfortunetely, Ivanie's dream turned into a nightmare amd for a variety of reasons she wasn;t able to make the team. Instead of living out her dream, she could only watch on TV.

Discouraged and upset, Ivanie was ready to walk away from the sport she loved. Fortunately there were others who still believed her dream could come true including on of the coaches with the national long track program who was able to talk Ivanie into switching disciplines.

The journey from backyard rink to Olympic speed skating ovel has not been an easy one., but throgh it all Ivanie's parents have been there to support her, even when it meant staying in Canada rather than traveling to Sochi to cheer her on.

"The decision wasn't that difficult to be honest with you," says Bob Blondin. "First, there wasn't a lot of time to get visas and make all the plans. And second, she was worried about our safety."

"She was so happy that we didn't go. She didn't want to worry about us. It was a relief for us too, because we didn't have to go through all the preparation in getting the visas and everything."

It also helped that Ivanie was joined in Sochi by fellow Gloucester Concordes member and east end resident Vincent de Haitre whose parents also chose to stay in Canada.

The Blondins watched their daughrer's frist event at home with a few friends and Ivanie's cockatoo, Gizmo, which they've been babysitting for the past three monhs.

Seeing their daughter step up to the line for the 3,000 metres was extremely emotional for both parents.

"It was really overwhelming, to see your daughter realize her dream and knowing how hard she worked for it. We were so proud," says Bob Blondin. "But at the same time we did notice how nervous she was. Just looking at her on the ice she looked a little overwhelemed."

Ivanie ended up finishing a very respectable 24th in a very large field. For her second race on Thursday, the Blondins were joined by about 40 supporters at Broadways Bar and Grill on Innes Road.

Ivanie finished 14th out of 16 competitors who were able to qualiy for the even. Shortly after the race, the Blondins got a surprising video call from their daughter.

"She called us on the phone and we held it up so that everyone could see her," says Bob.

The gang gathered at Broadways once again early Saturday morning to see Ivanie compete in her final event, the women's team pursuit. Although they ended up placing fifth, they had the third fastest time among the eight teams in the event, afeat that would have landed them the bronze medal in either a World Cup or the World Championships.

And just like that, Ivanie's Olympic experience was over, or at least the compettition part of it was over. She still plans to take part in today's closing ceremonies.

Back home her parents will be looking for one last glimpse of their daughter before she heads off for two more World Cup events and the World Single Distance Championships. If all goes well they will get to see her in person in late March.

As for the future. It looks very bright indeed. With Bob retiring on Jan. 31. the Blondins are looking forward to going to a few World Cup events as Ivanie begins another four year cycle in preparation for the next Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"We're going to be there for sure," says Bob with a twinkle in his eye.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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