Canadian speedskater Laurent Dubreuil world champion in men's 500 metres

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HEERENVEEN — Canadian speedskater Laurent Dubreuil is the men's world 500-metre champion after claiming the title Friday.

Dubreuil posted a winning time of 34.398 seconds in Heerenveen's Thialf arena to beat Russian rival and world record-holder Pavel Kulizhnikov by .14 seconds.

“My race was just as I had imagined it," Dubrueil said.

"It was really important for me to have a good start and I did just that. My first 300 metres was pretty good. In the last corner, I lost my balance a little bit, but at that speed it's completely normal.

"The last 200 metres wasn't my finest and it's a part I would like to re-do, but overall, it was really good race, Maybe the best race of my career."

The 28-year-old from Levis, Que., is the second Canadian to take that sprint title since Jeremy Wotherspoon in 2007, 2004 and 2003.

"Canadian speed skating has such an incredible history and I have had the chance to rub shoulders with a some of the legends of our sport," Dubreuil said.

"I am far from being considered a legend, but if my performance can inspire just a few people it will be a tremendous honour for me.”

Dai Dai N'tab of the Netherlands was third in 34.628.

Canadians also earned silver medals in the men's and women's team pursuit.

The long-track team's season has been limited to two World Cups in January and this week's world championship in Holland because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian team also arrived in Heerenveen short on quality training.

They've been without ice at their national training base, Calgary's Olympic Oval, since September because of a mechanical failure.

Ice will not be restored there until spring. The athletes followed a makeshift schedule of dryland training, skating outdoors, short-track workouts and two weeks at a B.C. indoor oval in November.

Winning a combined 11 medals in the two World Cups restored their confidence for the world championship.

Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Wiedemann and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., were second in women's team pursuit behind the host team Friday.

The Canadians had beaten the Dutch women twice to win gold in both World Cups.

"I think that we should be proud of what we’ve done with the cards we were dealt leading into this season," Blondin said.

"If you were to tell me before we got here that we would have silver and be within two tenths of the Dutch girls, I would have laughed and not believed it."

Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen, Toronto's Jordan Belchos and Connor Howe of Canmore, Alta., placed second to the Dutch in the men's event. Howe, 20, earned his first world championship medal.

“It was obvious right from the start that this team was working well together," said Bloemen.

"After winning bronze at the first World Cup, we just kept our strategy the same and built on it. We won silver at the next World Cup and improved to only 0.2 seconds from gold at world championships.

"It’s looking very promising going into the Olympic season where we’ll be able to prepare much better in relation to our opponents.”

Winnipeg's Heather McLean placed seventh in the women's 500 metres.

The world championship continues Saturday with Dubreuil racing the 1,000 metres, and Blondin and Belchos competing in the mass start.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press