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(Posted 9:30 a.m., Feb. 24)
Local Olympic hopeful ends Winter Games on disappointing note

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Orléans native and Garneau high school alum, Ivanie Blondin, will be returning home from the Winter Olympics next week without the medal she was dearly hoping for, but with her head held high nonetheless.

After placing sixth in the 3000-metres, fifth in the 5000-metres and fourth in the women's team pursuit, Blondin's last shot at a medal came in the women's mass start final which was held earlier this morning.

The mass start event is new to the Winter Olympics after being introduced on the World Cup circuit in 2011-2012. It is, in fact, a hybrid of long track and short track disciplines. Up to 16 skaters start the race in a pack and skate 15 laps to the finish line using a combination of athleticism, skill and guile.

Blondin came into the event in PyeongChang with an impressive resume, having won a gold medal at the 2016 World Single Distance Championships and the overall World Cup title in 2015.

And while the mass start event is usually contested in a one race, winner take all format, Olympic and ISU officials decided to hold a pair of semi-finals to narrow the field down to 16 skaters.

There are two ways to advance to the final. The first is by finishing in the top three. The second way is by picking up points in the three sprint laps that are held on the third, sixth and 13th laps.

Blondin skated in the second of the two semi-finals, after her teammate Keri Morrison had already advanced through the first semi-final by picking up a single sprint point on the third lap which was good enough to put her in the eighth and final qualifying position.

In her race, Blondin was coming around the bend in first place in a bid to pick up five points on the third lap when she inexplicably stumbled while crossing over her skates. As Blondin was falling, a Japanese skater appeared to touch her hip in an attempt to steady herself, but both skaters fell to the ice and crashed into the padding along the boards.

Blondin still managed to pick up a point by sliding across the sprint line in third place, but she was unable to rejoin the pack and compete for one of the top three overall spots which would have guaranteed her a spot in the final.

Her only hope was for her one point to hold up and get her in the top eight, much the same as Morrison did. For that to happen, all three of the top skaters would need to be ahead of her in the standings. As it turned out two of them were, but the third place skater was not. She leaped-frogged Blondin, pushing her into ninth place and out of the competition.

In an interview after the semi-final, Blondin expressed her disappointment.

"I was feeling really confident going into the race and I think if it wasnít for the fall I would be going into the final," Blondin said, "but I had a bit of a slip and then the Japanese skater pushed my hips down a tiny bit and I just lost balance and there was nothing I could do at that point. I couldnít hold myself up. I tried to get back up and finish the race but I was missing a part of my blade so its a little hard to finish the race without a blade. And it sucks for sure. Itís not fun. It happens and it happened to me today."

As for the future, Blondin says she will use her inability to win a medal as motivation during the next Olympic cycle leading up to the 2022 Games in Beijing, China.

"I donít think it's going to affect me in the future. Like Iíve come back before, maybe not from such a great disappoint like the Olympics, but Iíll just let it motivate me in the future."

Despite her obvious disappointment at not making the mass start final, Blondin said she is still proud of her Olympic experience.

"Iím not coming home with a medal, but I think finishing sixth, fifth and fourth is something pretty great and something I should be proud of."

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

 

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