Dutch back blanketing Olympic speedskating podium, Canada’s Blondin sixth

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Ivanie Blondin

Canada’s Ivanie Blondin reacts after finishing in the ladies’ 3000m speed skating finals during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday, February 10, 2018. Blondin finished sixth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — The Netherlands picked up at the Winter Olympics where they left off four years ago with a podium sweep of the first long-track speedskating race, to the exasperation of Canada’s Ivanie Blondin.

Winner Carlijn Achtereekte, runner-up Ireen Wust and bronze medallist Antoinette de Jong blanketed the women’s 3,000-metre podium in Dutch orange Saturday, while Ottawa’s Blondin was vexed to finish sixth.

The Netherlands dominated the oval in 2014 winning eight of 12 gold medals, 23 out of a total of 36 and sweeping the medals in four races in Sochi, Russia.

And while defending champion Wust and de Jong were counted among the medal favourites Saturday, the 28-year-old Achtereekte was an unexpected victor.

Her only career world championship medal was a silver in the 5,000 metres in 2015. Achtereekte wasn’t close to the World Cup podium in the 3k this season.

“It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing and I can’t really explain the Dutch sweep again,” said Blondin, who was fourth in the 3k at last year’s world single distance championships.

“It happened in Sochi and it happened now and we haven’t seen it really for four years. Explanation? I have no idea.”

Racing in the fifth of 12 pairs, Achtereekte put down a winning time of three minutes 59.21 seconds. She and Wust were the only two women among the 24 to go under four minutes. De Jong’s time was 4:00.02.

“I thought I had to skate the best race of my life and I did it,” Achtereekte said. “It went perfectly what I had in my head, the plan, the rounds, and the times.”

The world record of 3:53.34 was set by Canada’s Cindy Klassen in 2006.

Blondin, who won 3k gold at a World Cup in Erfurt, Germany, just before the games, lost time on her final two laps to finish in 4:04.14.

2010 Olympic champion Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic was fourth ahead of Japan’s Miho Takagi in fifth.

“Sixth position isn’t exactly what I wanted especially after two weeks ago getting a gold medal in Erfurt and pretty much all the same girls were skating in Erfurt,” she said.

“I was trying to talk to myself all day to not stress out and not be nervous, but you can’t really control those things. I was nervous all day.”

Blondin raced in the third-last pair alongside 45-year-old Claudia Pechstein and beat the German to briefly rank third. Pechstein owns nine Olympic medals, including five gold, and was the 3k champion in 2002.

But with her silver medal, Wust is one medal away from overtaking Pechstein as long track’s most decorated speedskater.

Ottawa’s Isabelle Weidemann was seventh in her Olympic debut just over a tenth of a second back of Blondin. The 22-year-old raced in a pair with Wust.

“She’s one of my idols, even growing up as a little kid, you watch the Olympics on TV and you watch Ireen Wust,” Weidemann said.

“She’s been one of my idols for a long time and I’ve never raced against her before, so it’s pretty cool to do that at the Olympics.”

Brianne Tutt of Airdrie, Alta., was 20th.

Blondin races the 5k on Feb. 16, the team pursuit Feb. 21 and concludes her Olympic program with her favourite race, the mass start, on Feb. 24.

“I screwed up my 3k, but I still have more distances to focus on,” Blondin said. “I’m probably going to dwell on it a little bit after this. It’s only human to do that.

“But five days until I start racing again, I think that’s plenty of time to re-focus and be on the right track.”

The men’s 5,000 metres is Sunday. Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary is the world-record holder in the distance.

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