CALGARY — The road back to form for Olympic dual-medallist Ted-Jan Bloemen continued Sunday with a fifth-place finish at the world all-round speedskating championships.
Bloemen was the top Canadian, capping off the two-day event at the Olympic Oval in Calgary with a second-place finish in the 10,000 metres, the race in which he won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"I'm proud of my skating this weekend," said Bloemen, 32, whose best finish in the all-round was fourth in 2010. "I don't think I was really sharp and really good, but it was four solid races and the 10K was probably my best performance."
Bloemen's focus this season has been to put himself in a position to contend at the single distance world championships next season, which are in Salt Lake City. That track is his favourite and for good reason: he set world record times in the 5,000 and 10,000 there.
After the Olympics, which included a silver medal performance in the 5,000, Bloemen admitted he needed to take a mental break and get away from the sport. So he and his wife Marlinde Kraaijeveld set out on a two-month backpacking adventure through Asia where at one point, he ended up "kidnapped" by an orangutan.
"We were on a three-day jungle trek and were just taking pictures and chilling when suddenly he runs up to me and grabs me by the wrist and he's like begging for food — and he won't let me go. They've got strong hands. It was a little bit scary," he said with a chuckle.
When you're a long-distance skater, that much time off takes its toll on your conditioning.
"I slowly worked my way back into training, but it was hard to pick it up again and it came with some injuries, too. So I didn't have the greatest summer to go for a good season of speedskating," Bloemen said. "I don't regret any of it, but the first half of the season, I was way off the pace and now I'm working my way back and second place is a great sign for next season."
Isabelle Weidemann was the top Canadian woman, finishing sixth. She also placed second in her final event, the 5,000 metres.
The 23-year-old from Ottawa, who now lives and trains in Calgary, was competing in her first all-round championship. The two events in one day for both days was different than what she's used to.
"I haven't raced back to back like that for a long time," she said. "We usually do one race at a day and we're so specialized in one event. But it was awesome to get a little personal best and then race again."
It's Weidemann's tradition to write race highlights at the end of an event on the back of her accreditation. For this weekend, she says the two highlights were breaking the four-minute barrier in the 3,000 metres on Saturday and going under 6:50 in the 5,000. Both were firsts for her.
Winning the men's all-round for a second straight time was Patrick Roest of the Netherlands. He edged out Norway's Sverre Lunde Pedersen. Longtime Dutch great Sven Kramer was third. Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., was 16th while Toronto's Jordan Belchos ended up 17th.
Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic won her fifth women's all-round championship. Her first was in 2009 and her most recent was in 2016. Japan's Miho Takagi finished second and Antoinette De Jong, of the Netherlands, took third. Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin took ninth and Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., was 17th.
After setting a world record in the 3,000 on Saturday, Sablikova set another world record on Sunday, skating a 6:42.01 in the 5,000.
She said she was inspired after getting a message on Saturday from Canadian Cindy Klassen, who had been the record holder in the 3,000 since 2006.
"She wrote me after the 3K and was so kind. I was so happy for this message," said Salikova, with a smile. "She said I would like to wish you good luck today."
When she completed the 12-and-a-half laps and saw her time, she couldn't believe it.
"It was incredible when I saw that wow, it is again, a world record, oh my God," Salikova said. "I don't have the right words for this. It was incredibly great."
Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press