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Dutch women win world gold in speedskating's team pursuit, Canada takes silver

Isabelle Weidemann Isabelle Weidemann - The Canadian Press

CALGARY — American speedskating star Jordan Stolz opened defence of his world championship triple crown with Friday's victory in the 500 metres, while Canadian sprinter Laurent Dubreuil took the silver medal for a second straight year.

Stolz became the first man to win three gold medals in individual distances in last year's world championship in Heerenveen, Netherlands in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 metres.

The 19-year-old from West Bend, Wis., posted a personal-best time of 33.69 seconds at Calgary's Olympic Oval on Friday to break Dubreuil's track record of 33.77. Stolz was also just short of the 500-metre world record of 33.61 seconds.

"I was really close," Stolz said.

Dubreuil of Levis, Que., was just under three-tenths of a second behind in 33.95. He and Stolz in the final pairing posted identical times over the opening 100 metres.

"Best start I've ever had," Dubreuil said. "Last pair against the best skater of at least our generation, it's very tough to stay focused, but I had one of the best races of my life and I'm very, very happy with it."

Dubreuil, 31, was the 2021 world champ in the 500 metres and the 2022 Olympic silver medallist in the 1,000.

He's chasing a young phenom that he's occasionally beaten this season, but Stolz finished first and Dubreuil second in the overall World Cup standings.

"He's pushing the limits of the human body," the Canadian said. "His body is a bit better than my body clearly, but it helps me push myself.

"Just the fact that we can consider it a rivalry means I'm a very, very good skater, because he's on another planet by himself. I'm just trying to push myself and hopefully challenge him. If he slips or has a bad day, then I want to be the guy to end that day."

Stolz continues his pursuit of back-to-back hat tricks in Saturday's 1,000 metres and Sunday's 1,500.

"I feel like 1,500 is maybe the most difficult, just because a lot can happen," Stolz said.

Poland's Damian Zurek was the 500-metre bronze medallist in 34.11 seconds.

Canada's pursuit teams earned silver and bronze medals Friday. Italy won men's gold ahead of Norway and Canada, while the Dutch beat Canada to reclaim the women's title.

The Dutch women were quicker than the Canadians last year in Heerenveen, but were disqualified because of an equipment violation by a skater. The gold went to Ottawa's Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin and Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., but the reigning Olympic champions weren't able to match the Dutch speed in Calgary.

In team pursuit, two teams of three skaters begin simultaneously on opposite sides of the oval and race the clock over six laps for women and eight laps for men.

Joy Beune, Irene Schouten and Marijke Groenewoud won in track-record time of two minutes 51.20 seconds with the Canadians 2.83 seconds back for silver.

The Japanese women couldn't hold their early pace and dropped from second position to third on their bell lap.

The Canadian trio is tinkering with lap positioning and formation with a view to defending their Olympic title in 2026. Teams switch leaders through the race or stay in the same formation throughout.

"We nailed our race plan," Blondin said. "It wasn't as fast, obviously, as the Dutch and that's a little bit sour, but that's OK. I mean, we've got to build on this.

"We're just trying to figure out when to punch it, how hard can we go to start and all these different things I think we're still figuring out with a new strategy."

Italy won the men's pursuit in 3:35 ahead of silver medallist Norway in 3:36.07. Connor Howe of Canmore, Alta., Toronto's Hayden Mayeur and Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., took bronze in 3:36.72.

Dutchwoman Femke Kok defended her women's 500-metre world title in 36.83 seconds. Min-Sun Kim of South Korea was second in 37.19 ahead of bronze medallist Kim Goetz of the U.S. 37.21.

The International Skating Union's world single distance championship continues Saturday with men's and women's mass starts and 1,000 metres. Maltais and Blondin are both medal contenders in the mass start.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2024.