Canadian speedskater Ivanie Blondin back on track after Olympic disappointment

Canadian speedskater Ivanie Blondin back on track after Olympic disappointment

CALGARY — Ivanie Blondin is in a good place. She wants to stay there.

With the help of some four-legged friends, the devastation the speedskater felt after 2018 Winter Olympics is shrinking in her rearview mirror.

A career start to this World Cup season is validating her efforts. The 29-year-old from Ottawa has amassed 10 medals, including six gold.

Blondin won gold in five straight races — two mass starts and the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metres — in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, and Nagano, Japan, earlier this month.

The last Canadian woman to have that kind of success in multiple distances was Cindy Klassen from 2003 to 2007.

“Last year I was really struggling coming off the games and struggling from depression,” Blondin told The Canadian Press.

“Because of what I’ve been through, I’m a stronger athlete physically and mentally this season. I honestly felt the strongest I’ve ever felt on ice in training than I’ve felt in my entire life.

“Having a fresh mindset and having a head on my shoulders again and being able to go into races with a clear mind, gave me that extra boost of confidence I needed to show up with some strong results.”

Blondin crashed in the semifinal of the mass start, her signature race, at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

A world champion in the discipline, in which several skaters leave the start line at the same time and jockey for position over 16 laps, Blondin was gunning for Olympic gold.

She was also a medal contender in the 3,000 and 5,000 in Pyeongchang. Blondin finished just off the podium in fifth and sixth respectively.

“Leading up to Pyeongchang, I was a multiple medal threat in different distances,” Blondin said.

“I came home and there was devastation of ‘I suck. I’m not good enough.’ I just felt like I had failed.

“That downward spiralled me into severe depression and having to take medication for it, and migraines, not sleeping, being anxious about everything.”

Blondin earned a mass start silver medal at February’s world championships, she felt off her game last season.

“The individual distances, I just didn’t have the mental capacity to go out there and perform and be confident,” she recalled.

The athlete consulted with her doctor, who put her on a six-month program of medication, and a sport performance specialist.

But Blondin, who has always had an affinity for the furred and feathered, says fostering humane society animals for adoption was a balm to her mental health.

In addition to her own parrot Gizmo and St. Bernard Pyrenees mix Brook, Lilly and Moose are among the canines who have come through her Calgary home since the summer of 2018.

“I was helping these animals, but I was healing myself at the same time,” Blondin said. “I kept filling the house with more and more animals and it made me feel better.”

In her second season with Dutch coach Remmelt Eldering, the addition of males to Blondin’s Olympic Oval training group this fall made her work feel fresher.

Blondin, Ottawa’s Isabelle Weidemann and Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., have won gold, silver and bronze in the women’s team pursuit so far this season.

“I’ve always really liked training with boys,” Blondin said. “Growing up, I always trained with the boys. Last year, one of my biggest struggles was being put in an all-female training group. I struggled a lot with that.

“This year, I accepted the fact that I was back in this training group, but they put boys in our training group, which is what we needed to go a little bit faster.

“I honestly think it made a big difference in our training and performance on ice.”

The second half of Blondin’s season includes racing on her home track Feb. 6-7 at a World Cup in Calgary, as well as the world single distance championships Feb. 12-15 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I just want to keep this going,” Blondin said. “It’s just confidence.

“If you believe you can do it, there’s greater chances of accomplishing it.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden are joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff during a COVID-19 memorial event at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
All eyes on the United States as Canadians tune in to Joe Biden’s inauguration

Thousands of National Guard troops deployed ahead of the event

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem takes part in a news conference at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on December 15, 2020. Canada’s central bank will update its economic forecast for the country that will offer a window when it expects a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to take hold. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada to update economic outlook with first rate announcement of 2021

0.25 per cent policy rate expected to be maintained

Artists of all genres are encouraged to apply for a variety of awards and scholarships available through the Red Deer Arts Council. This mixed-media work, Shadow Man by Paul Boultbee, has shown at the Kiwanis Gallery, operated by the council. (Contributed image).
Red Deer-area artists can apply for various awards, scholarships by March 1

The Red Deer Arts Council seeks to encourage artistic development

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

Legault nixes call for COVID-19 curfew exemption, saying it could used to avoid fines

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) scores the game-winning goal past Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) during overtime in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ehlers scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets rally for 4-3 win over Ottawa Senators

Ehlers scores overtime winner as Winnipeg Jets rally for 4-3 win over Ottawa Senators

Canadian women's soccer team member Rhian Wilkinson is seen during a training session in Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 21, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canada Soccer coach Rhian Wilkinson joins England women’s coaching staff

Former Canada Soccer coach Rhian Wilkinson joins England women’s coaching staff

Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Premier League-Darren Goldstein **MANDATORY CREDIT**
CPL targets season kickoff on Victoria Day Weekend, providing authorities agree

CPL targets season kickoff on Victoria Day Weekend, providing authorities agree

United States forward Brianna Decker (14) and Canada forward Marie-Philip Poulin battle for the puck during first period of 2018 Four Nations Cup gold medal game in Saskatoon on November 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Together at last, Canadian women’s hockey team reunites after pandemic separation

Soldiers parade from Parliament Hill as they take part in the National Day of Honour in Ottawa on Friday, May 9, 2014. Canada’s veterans ombudsman is calling on the federal government reverse to restrictions on the provision of mental-health services for the families of retired military personnel. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ombudsman slams new restrictions on mental-health support for veterans’ families

Ombudsman slams new restrictions on mental-health support for veterans’ families

FILE - John Mulaney arrives at night one of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 14, 2019, in Los Angeles. A file obtained by The Associated Press shows the U.S. Secret Service investigated John Mulaney, but found no wrongdoing in a joke the comedian made on “Saturday Night Live” in February 2020. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
File details investigation into John Mulaney ‘SNL’ monologue

File details investigation into John Mulaney ‘SNL’ monologue

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, file photo, Tom Hanks arrives at the People's Choice Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special celebrating the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
From Gaga to Garth, Miranda to Moreno: Celebs join inaugural

Like so much this past year, the inaugural celebration will be like… Continue reading

A Honduran migrant poses for a photo at a road block manned by Guatemalan soldiers and police, on the highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Some migrants threw rocks while authorities launched tear gas and pushed the migrants with their riot shields back down the highway. (AP Photo/Sandra Sebastian)
Large migrant caravan dissolves in Guatemala

Large migrant caravan dissolves in Guatemala

Most Read