NEWS
11/13/2015 14:31 EST | Updated 11/13/2016 00:12 EST

Canadian speedskaters Dutton, Bloemen win World Cup bronze on home ice

CALGARY — Will Dutton announced his retirement from long-track speedskating in June. He won the first World Cup medal of his career Friday with a bronze in the 500 metres.

The 25-year-old from Humboldt, Sask., returned to the sport largely because Speed Skating Canada hired Kevin Crockett in the summer to coach Canada's sprinters.

"I found out that he got the job as the sprint coach for Canada, and I thought "maybe I'll be faster, maybe I won't, but it's worth a shot,'" Dutton said. "Obviously, now I've showed I'm a competitor and this is where I want to be."

Crockett was an Olympic bronze medallist for Canada in 1998. He also coaches South Korea's Sang-Hwa Lee, who is the world record-holder in the women's 500 metres.

"To me, it was kind of a shame when Will hung his skates up," Crockett said. "He is kind of a freak with his talent. When you see a guy in his prime retire, I just thought it was an injustice. I talked this guy into coming back out."

The host Canadian team picked up a pair of bronze medals Friday at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. Ted-Jan Bloemen, a transplanted Dutchman now skating for Canada, was third in the 5,000 metres for the first World Cup podium of his career.

Pavel Kulizhnikov of Russia won the men's 500 in 34.11 seconds and just off the world record of 34.03 owned by Canada's Jeremy Wotherspoon. Finland's Mika Poutala was second in 34.28 ahead of Dutton in 34.46.

Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., finished eighth. The Canadians will race a second 500 metres on Sunday.

Dutton placed 14th at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Prior to Friday, he had never finished in the top 10 and his last race on a long-track oval was back on Dec. 14, 2014.

Dutton instead spent the second half of last winter competing in Red Bull Crashed Ice, which is basically ski cross racing with hockey skates and ice instead of skis and snow. Dutton worked as a carpenter in the spring and contemplated a career in firefighting.

"I think I had a little bit of post-Olympic blues and I felt like I wanted to do other things with my life just because I hadn't medalled and I was a bit down on myself," Dutton said.

"I couldn't stop now. Barring some significant injury, I'll be going right to 2018."

Bloemen arrived in Calgary in June, 2014, hoping Canada would give him a chance to race.

The Netherlands is to long-track speedskating what Kenya is to long-distance running. Bloemen had the eighth-fastest 10,000 metres in the world in 2013, but the seven men faster than him were all Dutch. So Bloemen was never secure in his spot on the Dutch team.

"The comfort and the consistent facilities that I've gotten here and the security of a team around me, I don't have to worry as much any more," Bloemen said. "That's what Canada has given me. I hope to give back a lot of medals."

Sven Kramer and Jorrit Bergsma made it a one-two finish for the Netherlands in the men's 5,000. Kramer, a two-time Olympic champion in the event, posted a winning time of six minutes 8.61 seconds.

Bloemen, 29, set a Canadian record in the 10,000 metres at national trials last month. He shaved a second and a half off the national 5,000 mark Friday with his time of 6:12.72.

Bloemen's father Gerhard-Jan was born in Bathurst, N.B., before emigrating to the Netherlands with Dutch parents.

Lee claimed her fifth straight women's 500 metres in Calgary. The two-time Olympic champion left the South Korean team to follow Crockett to Calgary and continue training with him.

"I wouldn't say Korea was really supportive because she's kind of that rogue athlete if you will," Crockett said. "This is huge. It justifies her decision to leave that program and to stick with me. The Canadian system and the team has been very supportive of Sang-Hwa."

Lee's time was 36.96 ahead of runner-up Hong Zhang of China in 37.18 and Brittany Bowe of the U.S. in third in 37.22.

Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic won gold in the women's 3,000 metres in a time of three minutes 57.21 seconds. Irene Schouten of the Netherlands was second 1.18 seconds back of Sablikova. Natalya Voronina placed third in 3.58.78.

Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin placed seventh.

Racing continues Saturday and Sunday.