Canada claims double gold on world speedskating championship opening day

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HEERENVEEN, Netherlands — Canada opened the world speedskating championship with a pair of gold medals.

The men and women won the team sprints to kick off the four-day championship in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

Montreal’s Chris Fiola, Laurent Dubreuil of Lévis, Que., and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., took the men’s event ahead of the host Dutch in second and the Norwegians in third.

Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin, Carolina Hiller of Prince George, B.C., and Calgary’s Brooklyn McDougall claimed women’s gold, followed by silver medallist United States and bronze medallist China.

Blondin, Hiller and McDougall took the lead for good after the first of three laps and finished in a winning time of one minute 26.29 seconds, .29 seconds ahead of the U.S. and 1.57 seconds clear of China.

With the win, the trio adds world championship gold to the three World Cup silver medals they captured earlier this season. It’s Canada’s second world championship podium in the women’s team sprint, having won silver back in 2019.

“Becoming world champion with Carolina and Ivanie is incredibly special,” McDougall said. “We were so consistent all season, finishing second each World Cup. Upgrading to gold at the world championships was perfect. I will never forget this feeling with these girls.”

The men’s trio — which last skated together at the World Cup in Calgary in December — overcame a bit of a sloppy start to claim the top spot. Sitting third after the opening lap, Gélinas-Beaulieu caught up to his teammates and put forth a tremendous solo lap as the men secured gold in a time of 1:19.26, 0.41 second ahead of the host Dutch and .54 seconds ahead of the Norwegians.

“It’s a great feeling to see your teammates give themselves body and soul, one after another, to finally give way to you,” Gélinas-Beaulieu said. “Being a world champion in the team sprint is even more fun because I can share it with others. It’s a race we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”

The team sprint isn’t yet a part of the Olympic Games program.

Valérie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., was Canada’s top individual distance finisher on Thursday evening, earning a career-best fifth-place result in the women’s 3,000 metres.

Racing continues Friday with men’s and women’s team pursuits and 500 metres.

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