Bloemen’s gold tops banner day for Canada

The Canadian Press

PYEONGCHANG–After settling for silver in the men’s 5,000 metres, Calgary speedskater Ted-Jan Bloemen lamented he didn’t have more in the tank to challenge Dutch great Sven Kramer for gold.
His tank was full of high-grade octane today as Bloemen dominated the competition in the men’s 10,000 metres and won the gold medal in an Olympic-record time.
Skating with confidence and consistency in the second-last pair, Bloemen laid down a time of 12 minutes, 39.11 seconds.
It was a mark not even Kramer, one of the greatest speedskaters of all time, could match.
Perhaps daunted by the high bar set by Bloemen, Kramer flagged during his skate and finished a shocking sixth.
Bloemen’s camp was so sure of victory that coach Bart Schouten gave the eventual Olympic champion a victory hug while Kramer still had 2,000 metres to skate.
Bloemen’s gold was part of a banner day for Canada’s Olympians that saw the luge relay team of Alex Gough, Sam Edney, Tristan Walker, and Justin Snith win silver while pairs figure skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford took bronze.
Meanwhile, Canada’s women’s hockey team finished the round-robin undefeated with a 2-1 win over archrival United States. And the men opened with a convincing 5-1 win over Switzerland.
Canada sat third in the overall medal standings after six days of competition with 13 medals (four gold, five silver, and four bronze).
Norway leads with 17 medals, followed by 15 for Germany.
Canada’s four gold medals are fifth behind Germany (nine), Norway (six), and the Netherlands and U.S. (five).
The 31-year-old Bloemen, who moved from the Netherlands to Calgary four years ago to compete for Canada, added the Olympic record to his world record in the gruelling 10,000-metre distance.
“I always felt from deep inside that I was able to do something special on the ice but I was never able to show it,” Bloemen said on his move to Canada.
“I had to find a different way to do it because I found I hit a wall in my career,” he noted.
“I found that different way and got way more than I ever would have hoped.”
Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma, the 2014 victor in the 10K, was second and briefly held the Olympic record with a time of 12:41.98 until Bloemen erased it in the next pairing.
Italy’s Nicola Tumolero took the bronze.
Toronto’s Jordan Belchos finished fifth with a career-best time of 12:59.51.
Bloemen’s father, Gerhard-Jan, was born in Bathurst, N.B. and lived in Canada for seven years before his family returned to the Netherlands.
Since arriving in Calgary in the spring of 2014, Bloemen has obtained his Canadian citizenship and married his Dutch wife, Marlinde, in a ceremony in Calgary.
Elsewhere, Canada earned its second Olympic luge medal in dramatic fashion as the relay team raced to a time of two minutes, 24.872 seconds.
The powerhouse Germans won gold in 2:24.517 while Austria took bronze in 2:24.988.
The Canadians mobbed Walker and Snith after their doubles run put Canada atop the standings with just the Austrians and Germans to go.
The medal was redemption for the Canadian team, which finished fourth in the relay when it made its Olympic debut four years ago–a mere 10th of a second back of third.
The foursome got bumped up to bronze for what would have been Canada’s first luge podium at a Games in December when two Russian competitors were among dozens of athletes from the host nation stripped of their 2014 results and banned for life for alleged doping violations by the International Olympic Committee.
But the Canadians once again were pushed back to fourth following the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s recent decision to overturn the punishment for 28 of those athletes, including lugers Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova.
“It shows the strength of our team,” Edney said. “That fuelled us. That fuelled us for a long time.”
Gough secured Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal in luge with a bronze in Tuesday’s women’s race.
Meanwhile, Duhamel and Radford ended a dry spell for Canada in pairs figure skating–capping their final Olympics with a bronze medal.
Duhamel, of Lively, Ont., and Radford, of Balmertown, Ont., finished third today to give Canada its first Olympic pairs medal since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier captured gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City.
Duhamel and Radford, two-time world champions competing in their final season, scored 153.33 points for their program to Adele’s “Hometown Glory” and 230.15 total points.
Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won gold with 235.90 while reigning world champs Sui Wenging and Han Cong of China took silver (235.47).
“It’s the sweetest [ending] it could possibly be right now,” Radford said.
“I don’t think that there’s any better way.”
“I don’t think there’ve been happier bronze-medallists than we are,” added Duhamel.
It’s the second medal of the Games for Duhamel and Radford, who helped lead Canada to gold in the team event earlier in the week.
The winning continued today as Canada’s women’s hockey team clinched top spot in pool play by beating the arch-rival Americans 2-1.
Meghan Agosta, of Ruthven, Ont., and Hamilton’s Sarah Nurse scored in the second period for the Canadians, who are aiming for a fifth-straight Olympic title.
Genevieve Lacasse of Kingston, Ont. stopped 44 shots.
“I always expect a lot of shots against the U.S. and we did a great job keeping their shots to the outside,” Lacasse noted.
In men’s hockey, Canada found its offence early as Rene Bourque and Wojtek Wolski each scored twice in a workmanlike win over the Swiss.
Maxim Noreau had a goal and an assist for the Canadians while goalie Ben Scrivens made 28 saves.
“The team played well,” Scrivens said.
“We’ve been here for a week now,” he noted. “I think everyone was excited to get going.
“I thought we executed, stuck together.”
But Ottawa’s Rachel Homan had an Olympic debut to forget with an 8-6 loss to South Korea and a 7-6 extra-end loss to Sweden in her first two game of the women’s curling tournament.
Homan, a three-time Canadian champion and the defending world champ, is playing in her first Olympic Games.
It was a better day for Calgary skip Kevin Koe, who improved to 3-0 in men’s competition with a 7-4 win over Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud.