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(Posted 11:30 p.m., Jan. 4)
Blondin qualifies for Olympic 5,000 metres; fellow Concordes member de Haitre makes strong case to be included on team

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Cumberland native Vincent de Haitre is hoping to join fellow Gloucester Concordes member Ivanie Blondin at the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month after putting together an impressive performance at the team selection trials in Calgary this week. Calgary Herald photo

Orléans native Ivanie Blondin has qualified for a second event at the Olympics in Sochi thanks to her winning performance in the 5,000 metres at the national speed skating selection trials in Calgary on Friday.

Blondin beat out Edmonton native Nicole Garrido by a fraction of a second in a race that took both speed skaters a little over seven minutes and 18 seconds to complete. Blondin`s winning time was 7:18.45, slightly better than Garrido`s time of 7;18.87.

With only one spot open for a Canadian competitor in the 5000 metres at Sochi, it was a winner take all scenario as the two skaters took the ice and Blondin emerged the victor.

"I wouldn’t say I skated really well but I’m obviously happy that I came out on top today,” the 23-year-old Blondin told reporters after the race. “I think it’s kind of a miracle that I did.”

With the selection trials now over, Speed Skating Canada’s Olympic Selection Committee must decide which of the athletes will fill the 10 female and eight male spots on the team.

Blondin is a shoe in with her first place performance in the 5000 and a second place finish in the 3000 metres on the opening day of the trials last week. She is also a likely candidate for the women's pursuit team which is a bonafide medal contender.

Blondin will likely be joined in Sochi by fellow Gloucester Concordes member Vincent de Haitre from Cumberland.

De Haitre, who is the reigning national junior champion, started the season ranked 10th in the 1000 metres and 11th in the 1500 metres. At the Fall World Cup Trials in October, he placed sixth in the 1000 and fourth in the 1500. He did substantially better this week, shaving more than a second off his previous personal best time to win the 1000 metres in 1:08.37, stunning both the crowd and himself.

“I feel out of this world,” an overjoyed De Haitre said after the race last Monday. “This is surreal. I couldn’t be happier, really.”

De Haitre benefitted from a miscue by reigning Canadian senior men's champ Denny Morrison who fell near the finish line. But even if Morrison had stayed on his feet, De Haitre would have still finished second. He also finished third in the 1500, making a strong case for inclusion on the Olympic team.

De Haitre and Blondin are both looking forward to competing for their country in Sochi, but they're also looking forward to a few days off before going to Tuscon, Arizona for a training camp.

The Canadian Olympic long track speed skating team will officially be announced during a special event at the Calgary Oval on Jan. 22, The Olympics begin on Feb. 6.

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

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