CALGARY - Ivanie Blondin has had a breakthrough season so far on the international speed skating scene.
The 24-year-old from Ottawa is now looking forward to having a strong showing at the ISU world allround championships this Saturday and Sunday at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.
"The home crowd is definitely an advantage when you feel that energy and people screaming," Blondin said. "A lot of people say, 'Don't you feel more pressure?' To me it's not really necessarily more pressure. To me, it's nice to be at home and I can be eating the same food that I'm used to and be in my own bed and kind of have my family there to support me too."
Last month in Heerenveen, Netherlands, Blondin won silver in the women's mass-start race at the speed skating world single distance championships. She has also won five World Cup medals in the mass start— two gold, two silver and a bronze— to go with another bronze in the 5,000 metre-event earlier in the season.
After not skating up to her potential at last year's world allround championships in Heerenveen, Blondin has higher expectations for herself this year.
"I'm looking forward to see what I'll be able to do this weekend," said Blondin, who started out as a short-track speed skater at age 14 before switching to long track at 20. "Coming from short track and having to race all those distances when I was younger, I think it kind of helped me build the sprint ability as well as the long distance. I think that's kind of why I'm more of an all-round skater when it comes to world allrounds."
To accomplish her goal of finishing in the top eight, Blondin will have to skate well in both the 500m and 3,000m on Saturday and the 1,500m on Sunday to be among the eight qualifiers for the 5,000m later that same afternoon.
"I'm better in the long distances, but I've also proven this year that I can be pretty fast in the shorter distances as well," she said. "If I happen to get into the 5K then I could potentially better my ranking in that sense because I'm better at the 5K and the 3K than I am at the sprint distances."
The championships will feature 24 female and 24 male skaters from 18 countries. Koen Verweij and Irene Wust of the Netherlands are the defending men's and women's champions, respectively. Fellow Dutch skater Sven Kramer will be vying for his seventh world allround men's title, which would put him one behind Germany's Gunda Niemann.
Regina's Kali Christ will compete with Blondin in the women's races, while Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., and Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen will represent Canada in the men's races.
"I think it's going to be really exciting," said Christ, who finished 10th last year in Heerenveen. "I love competing at home. I've been skating really well and as long as I execute my race plans the way I want to, then I'll be happy with where I end up."
The men will start out with the 500m and 5,000m on Saturday followed by the 1,500m on Sunday to determine the top eight competitors who will advance to the 10,000m, which will be the final race of the event.