Fostering dogs helped this Olympic speed skater fight depression and get back on track

This month, Calgary-based speed skater Ivanie Blondin won gold in five straight races — the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metres. 

It's a stunning rebound from where the 29-year-old, who is originally from Ottawa, found herself just one year ago, when she experienced a devastating crash during the semifinal of the women's mass start at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

She didn't medal in a single race — despite being a leading contender — and left empty handed. 

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Since then she's fought to regain confidence and care for herself, through caring for some canine pals.

"Last year coming off the Olympic season I was suffering from depression, I was really upset with my performances at the Games, coming home empty handed … I found myself in this downward spiral," Blondin said. 

It's not the first time Blondin's faced hardship in the sport. After she didn't qualify for the Olympics in 2010, she was ready to quit. But she switched from short track to long track and made it to Sochi in 2014.

It was her then coach who helped convince her to stay strong. 

This time, she turned to another support — some canine pals. 

Animals have always been a big part of Blondin's life (she has a dog and a parrot, and once completed a veterinary assistant program) so she signed up to foster dogs with the Cochrane Humane Society.

"I would bring dogs home that needed special care, or puppies that weren't quite ready for adoption quite yet and I would take care of them. And, in a way, it helped me take care of myself," she said. "It got me back into the mental state that I needed to perform."

Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada
Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada

That renewed strength is visible not just in the string of gold medals. She's set track records in more than one recent race.

Her coach, Remmelt Eldering, said her strategy is paying off.

"She has a strong will and she wants to fight, always," he said. 

Blondin said her dog Brook is her ultimate training partner.

"I go running with her. It's nice to have four-legged friends in your life and they give you so much positive energy that it's hard to resist these faces."

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