Decorated Canadian speedskater Isabelle Weidemann resets targets post Beijing Olympics

Isabelle Weidemann is proud of the state of her Olympic medals.

“Super-dented,” the Canadian speedskater said cheerfully.

Winner of a complete set of gold, silver and bronze medals in Beijing in February, the 27-year-old from Ottawa encourages public handling of her hardware.

“I remember a long time ago, maybe 10 years ago, seeing Chandra Crawford’s Olympic gold medal. She’s a cross-country skier. It was destroyed,” Weidemann told The Canadian Press.

“I thought ‘how could you keep your medal in that condition?’ and now I see mine and I get it. When people want to hold them, and kids drop them, I really don’t care. When I’m old and retired from the sport, I want them to be totally destroyed because I think that’s the best part of it, being able to share that.”

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Click to play video: 'The Olympic journey of speedskater Isabelle Weidemann'

The Olympic journey of speedskater Isabelle Weidemann

Weidemann and her Canadian long-track teammates compete at home in back-to-back World Cups starting Friday in Calgary. International races conclude Sunday followed Dec. 16-18 by another three-day World Cup at the Olympic Oval.

Weidemann, Canada’s flag-bearer in Beijing’s closing ceremonies, combined with Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., to win the country’s first gold medal in women’s team pursuit.

Weidemann also claimed silver in the gruelling 5,000 metres and bronze in the 3,000 metres.

She was just the third Canadian athlete to win more than two medals at a single Winter Games following speedskaters Cindy Klassen (2006) and Gaetan Boucher (1984).

Read more: Winnipeg Olympian Susan Auch is out as CEO of Speed Skating Canada

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The start of an Olympic quadrennial is transition time for athletes, particularly when they’ve achieved their Olympic dreams. Mindsets and targets change, and the door opens wider to life outside sport.

“I feel quite a bit different than I did the last quad,” Weidemann said. “I came out of 2018 so excited to do four more years and just grind to 2022 to be prepared as I could to perform there. That motivated me for four years.

“I came back this year and I knew that I had to have different goals. I think I still have quite a few unresolved things I want to get out of the sport before I move on.”

She will complete her undergraduate science degree by the end of this month. She’s applied to medical school and if she’s accepted, Weidemann would follow several Canadian athletes down that path.

Her former speedskating teammate Denny Morrison and Olympic hockey player Claire Thompson were both accepted to faculties of medicine this year.

Hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser and former Calgary Stampeder quarterback Andrew Buckley both graduated medical school.

Read more: Canada’s Ivanie Blondin wins silver in mass start speed skating at Beijing Olympics

Continuing to be tested daily beyond their athletic careers is a draw to the profession, Weidemann thinks.

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“It is this intense passion that really pulls us towards it,” she said. “This drive and this desire to just like grind every day, I think we all really like that.”

On the ice, Weidemann is ready to gamble to see how much faster she can get under the guidance of her coach Remmelt Eldering.

Long distance is about pacing. Pushing too hard too soon in a 5k risks “blowing up” and slowing to a crawl on the final lap. Weidemann is ready to roll the dice in a post-Olympic season.

“I’ve skated the same times consistently over the last four years about, and I’ve been on the podium a lot, but I haven’t really skated faster than that,” she said. “I’m really proud of those performances, but I want to see if I can push the next step.

“We had to be very conservative for four years, and really make sure we were just nailing those consistent times. Now I can take more risks. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.”

Weidemann took 3k bronze and silver in this season’s first two World Cups in Stavanger, Norway and Heerenveen, Netherlands, respectively.

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Weidemann, Maltais and Blondin reunited to win the women’s team pursuit in Stavanger.

Speedskaters constantly search for a combination of power and fluidity in their stride.

Weidemann would like to hit that sweet spot in Calgary, where she and the rest of the national team train.

“I had results in the fall, in the first two World Cups. I’m happy with how they went,” she said. “The feeling wasn’t there though. I struggled a little bit to find the flow on the ice. I’d love that feeling here.”

&© 2022 The Canadian Press

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