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Stolz repeats world speedskating hat trick, Canada's Bloemen, Fish reach podium

CALGARY — Ted-Jan Bloemen and Graeme Fish have both navigated comebacks in the sufferfest that is speedskating's 10,000 metres.
Italy's Davide Ghiotto, centre, celebrates his victory with second place finisher Canada's Ted-Jan Bloemen, left, and third place finisher Canada's Graeme Fish on the podium following the men's 10000-metre event at the ISU World Speed Skating Championships in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — Ted-Jan Bloemen and Graeme Fish have both navigated comebacks in the sufferfest that is speedskating's 10,000 metres.

The Canadian men lost their mojo in the punishing 25-lap race for different reasons, after Fish won a world title ahead of silver medallist Bloemen in 2020.

Neither had the Olympic Games they'd wanted two years ago in Beijing.

So Bloemen's silver and Fish's bronze Sunday in this year's world championship in Calgary behind Italian winner Davide Ghiotto were markers in the Canadians' 10k revivals.

Fish of Moose Jaw, Sask., returned to the podium for the first time since his 2020 victory in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"It was nice to finally be on the podium after, I guess, four years of not being there," the 26-year-old said.

A bout of COVID-19 hampered Fish's prep for Beijing, where he placed sixth.

He's also since been diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis, which Fish manages with medication and regular blood tests.

"Luckily we caught it," Fish said. "Five years down the road could have been way worse.

"Definitely now I feel a lot more energy as you can see. The fitness level is back."

Bloemen, the 2018 Olympic champion, felt his 10k juices flowing again just over a year ago when he posted a track record of 12 minutes 33.75 seconds at a Calgary World Cup.

Bloemen, a Dutch-Canadian who emigrated to Calgary in 2014, then finished third at the 2023 world championship.

The 37-year-old acknowledges that he didn't handle well the challenges of training during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was also ill in the run-up to Beijing. During the 10k, Bloemen drew his finger across his throat to signal to his coaches he didn't have it that day.

"I was 35 years old. I hadn't really been enjoying myself and I love this sport so much, so I didn't want to retire on that note," Bloemen said.

"I wanted to find my passion. I wanted to enjoy speedskating again. With that motivation, I picked it back up, changed my training program a little bit and came back swinging."

Bloemen, who is married with two young children Fiene and Thias, has adjusted training to his changing life.

"I found out life with a family and getting a little bit older, it's harder to find quality recovery time," Bloemen said. "Recovery is also really important next to training. If you're doing a lot of hard training and not recovering very well, the training's not going to be efficient and you're digging yourself a hole.

"I found some strategies to deal with that in a more proper way."

The host Canadian team won 10 medals at the four-day world single distance championship, which is the most by the country at an event.

"To put on a show for the people in the stands, to teach them about speedskating and how good our country is at the sport, and how we can excel and succeed on the international stage, it's just an exciting pinnacle to the season," Canadian coach Mark Wild said.

Canada was shut out of gold medals in individual races at the Olympic Oval, however. Two came in the men's and women's team sprints, which aren't Olympic events.

The Dutch remain the sport's dominant country with 13 medals, including six gold.

Jordan Stolz of the United States repeated his feat of three gold medals in three men's individual races. The 19-year-old phenom became the first man to do that last year in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

Stolz capped his second triple crown by winning Sunday's 1,500 metres.

"I feel like winning twice is way more impressive," Stolz said. "I feel like the feeling last year was a bit more surreal because it was the first world championship medals I ever got, but this is also kind of crazy that I did it again."

Ghiotto repeated as 10k world champion in a career-best time of 12 minutes 38.81. Bloemen finished in 12:47.01 and Fish in 12:48.61.

Joy Beune and Irene Schouten went one-two for the Netherlands in the women's 5,000 metres.

Czechia's Martina Sablikova ranked third and Ottawa's Isabelle Weidemann was fifth after finishing second to Schouten in the 3k to start the championship.

Japan's Miho Takagi won the women's 1,500-metre title ahead of runner-up Mei Han of China and Beune in third.

Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands and Norway's Peder Kongshaug were second and third respectively behind Stolz in the men's 1,500.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2024.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press