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Speed skater Maltais earns 1st Mass Start World Cup medal, Blondin takes season title

Ivanie Blondin and Valérie Maltais made speed skating World Cup history on Sunday, becoming the first Canadians to share the medal podium in the Mass Start.

Maltais and Momoka Horikawa broke away from the pack with eight laps left, and they exchanged the lead times before the Japanese athlete crossed the finish line in first place for her first career gold medal.

The 32-year-old Maltais of Saguenay, Que., clocked eight minutes 58.56 seconds in silver medal position while Blondin reached the line in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland, 1-10th of a second ahead of Italy’s Laura Peveri in 9:03.51 for bronze to secure the overall season title.

With 435 points, the Ottawa native edged Dutch skater Marijke Groenewoud (424), who did not compete this weekend. Maltais concluded sixth with 341 points.

“I am very happy with this podium today,” Maltais told Speed Skating Canada of her first career individual distance medal on the circuit. “My goal since the start of the season was to make a podium in this distance. I was close a few times, but never close enough.

“Today, I wanted to find the moment to break away and I’m happy that it worked out. Momoka and I worked together once we pulled away from the rest of the pack.”

It was the second international Mass Start podium for Maltais, who was victorious in December at the Four Continents Championships in Quebec City.

On the men’s side, Laurent Dubreuil of Lévis, Que., failed to podium on Sunday but was handed his third World Cup trophy of the season for his second-place standing in the overall World Cup rankings of the 1,000 with 231 points, the same ranking he earned as part of the Team Sprint on Friday.

The 30-year-old was also the top skater at the 500 distance this season, winning the overall title by 30 points on Saturday.

The Canadian long track team finish the World Cup season with an impressive 30 medals, counting eight gold, 14 silver and eight bronze across six events.

Ottawa’s Isabelle Weidemann (3,000/5,000m) and Connor Howe (1,500) of Canmore, Alta., finished second overall in their distance rankings, while the women were tops in team pursuit. Canada’s men and women placed second in team sprint.

The international long track season finale, the world championships, is scheduled for March 2-5 in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Live streaming coverage will be available on CBC Sports and Radio-Canada platforms.

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