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Speedskaters Johnson, Dubreuil and Gelinas-Beaulieu help Canada win team sprint gold

Canada speedskating Laurent Dubreuil - The Canadian Press

TOMASZÓW MAZOWIECKI, Poland — Canada won its first men's team sprint gold medal in five seasons on Friday to kick off the final World Cup speedskating event of the 2022-23 campaign.

Anders Johnson of Calgary, Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., and Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., reached the top of the podium in their first race as a team, crossing the line with a time of one minute 19.53 seconds.

Norway was second, 1:36 seconds behind the Canadians, and the Netherlands was 2.08 seconds off the pace to take third.

Canada started with the fourth fastest opening split time (16.6 seconds) but picked up the speed afterwards and remained in first for the rest of the three lap race.

The victory was Canada’s first on the World Cup circuit since the 2017-18 season and was also Johnson's first career World Cup podium.

“I think that’s the most fun I’ve had speed skating — first time racing team sprint and it’s a gold," Johnson said. "I’ve looked up to Laurent and Antoine in skating and getting to go to the line with them for this race was a dream come true.

The team last reached the podium on home ice in Calgary last December, where Dubreuil, Gélinas-Beaulieu and Christopher Fiola earned bronze.

The Canadian long-distance trio of Isabelle Weidemann (Ottawa), Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa) and Valérie Maltais (Saguenay, Que.) all finished within striking distance of the women’s 3,000 metre podium on Friday, finishing fourth (+6.32), fifth (+6.57) and sixth (+7.98), respectively.

Norway’s Ragne Wiklund won in a track record time of 4:02.79. She was joined on the podium by Martina Sáblíková of Czechia (+2.88) and Joy Beune of the Netherlands (+5.56).

The gold medal helped Wiklund – who reached the podium six times this season –secure the World Cup title in the long distances with 342 points. Weidemann and Beune were tied for second in the rankings with 251 points, slightly ahead of Blondin (241).

Gélinas-Beaulieu just missed out on a second podium when he finished fourth in the men's 1,500.

Connor Howe of Canmore, Alta., finished second in the overall World Cup rankings of the 1,500 with 254 points, behind only reigning Olympic champion Kjeld Nuis (276 points).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2023.