Quebec World Cup | Leaving your “heart on ice”

(Quebec) After crossing the tunnel passing under the ice ring, Valérie Maltais placed the large silver cup that she had just received as the third skater of the season in the long distances. She had slipped in the small bottle of maple syrup that had been given to her as a souvenir.

Before the press scrum, she wanted to take a few seconds to savor the moment with Remmelt Eldering, the Dutch-born coach who introduced her to long track after her successful career in short track speed skating. “He was the first who believed in me,” she recalled shortly after.

In 2018, after three Olympic Games in short track, Maltais was making herself small in this new world that she discovered at the end of her twenties. Would she really succeed in competing one day with the Dutch, for whom the discipline is a true national sport?

She had a first part of the answer by winning the gold medal in the team pursuit at the Beijing Olympics in February 2022. Now, could she do it alone?


Valérie Maltais collects a second third place in a row in the World Cup.

It is with this quest in mind that she began her fifth Olympic cycle, which should take her to Milan in 2026. Almost halfway through, she can confirm that she is very well on her way to getting there. achieve.

Less than a week after having the best weekend of her career by reaching the podium three times in Salt Lake City, Valérie Maltais continued her momentum by finishing third in the 3000 m during the first day of the Coupe du world of Quebec, Friday afternoon. This result allowed him to finish third in the cumulative long distance rankings.

Her eternal smile, already radiant, radiated as she greeted the 1,500 fans delighted to have attended this show at the Intact Assurance Ice Center.

“It’s really special to have accomplished this today, not only my second podium [au 3000 m], but also the cumulative aspect,” she confided, still moved, to media representatives. “What it means to me is never giving up and always believing in myself. »

Also third in Utah, the original Saguenay had a lot to do to repeat the feat with the return of two renowned competitors, including her friend Isabelle Weidemann, triple Olympic medalist. Starting in the second of seven pairs, the Canadian set the first reference time to take the lead in 4 min 2.79 s. Strong stuff for the heroine of Beijing. Three pairs later, she was dislodged by the Dutchman Irene Schouten, triple Olympic gold medalist, who stopped the clock at 4 min 1.11 s.

In the following start, Maltais attacked her event and completed the laps with the confidence of the veteran she has now become.

From the first lap, I felt like I had a good tempo. At one point, I felt that my route had shifted a little. [J’amorçais] my entry into the corner a little too early. We had talked about it a few times with my coaches: how to readjust during the race. This is what I managed to do today. It’s a subtle detail, but it shows that my head is in the right place.

Valérie Maltais

In the middle of the ordeal, the coach Muncef Ouardi gave her an encouragement that she is not used to receiving: “You skate well! » “Often, coaches shout: “Be lower, do this, do that”, but here, it was more: “You got it!”, Maltais exclaimed. It struck me! »

Even though she was seeing double in the final loops, carried by the crowd, she stopped the time at 4:2.73, a personal best at sea level that placed her second behind Schouten. Delighted, Maltais raised her right index finger after removing her hood, satisfied with her effort, regardless of the outcome.

A tight end

Everything was possible for the two Canadians, but four competitors were still in the running, and not the least. Norwegian Ragne Wiklund and Czech Martina Sablikova, ranked first and second in the world, had to settle for fifth and sixth places.

Only the Dutch Joy Beune and Marijke Groenewood remained, two other contenders whom the knowledgeable public of Quebec knew were threatening. People held their breath when host Benoît Lamarche reported the passing times.

The suspense lasted almost until the very end, Beune slipping into second place, a tenth ahead of the Quebecer, while Groenewood failed to reach eighth place.

Sitting in the middle of the ring, Maltais lived these last moments in a mixture of resignation and anticipation. “I saw times slowing down and I was like: This could be happening! I felt excitement and emotion rising a little. Luckily I wasn’t in the second pair! »

The presence of her family obviously enhanced the experience of the 33-year-old skater. “I’m very emotional right now because my family is here. How many years has she been there supporting me, coming to the arenas, seeing me change sports, move to Calgary, come back to Quebec? It seems like the train never stops. »

After the Quebec event, where she will line up in the 1500m and the mass start on Sunday, the next station will be the World Distance Championships in Calgary, from February 15 to 18.

“It’s still early to think about it, but we won’t lie: it’s certain that the podium is achievable at the World Championships, but my performance will not prevent others from doing well. That’s the beauty of long track speed skating and what makes me so passionate about it. It’s about loving the sport, putting your heart on the ice and seeing where you end up in the end. »

Exactly as she did on Friday, to everyone’s delight.

Gold before syrup for Bloemen


Ted-Jan Bloemen celebrated his 5000m victory by allowing himself a sip of maple syrup.

Double Olympic medalist Ted-Jan Bloemen capped off this great afternoon by winning the 5000m. Trailing behind his neighbor in the lane, the Italian Davide Ghiotto, the 37-year-old Albertan gradually caught up from halfway through the race, to finish in the lead in 6 min 13.87 s, improving further by two seconds from his own track record set a year and a half earlier. The Norwegian Hallgeir Engebraten completed the podium. At the medal ceremony, Bloemen allowed himself a sip of maple syrup. Judging by his reaction, he found it a bit strong.

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