Canadian athletes reached the podium three times for a roaring start at the season-opening World Cup long track speed skating stop on Friday.
Ted-Jan Bloemen and Isabelle Weidemann captured silver medals, while Laurent Dubreuil raced to bronze in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland.
One month after seizing the men's 5,000-metre national title, Bloemen — who is also the 2018 Olympic silver medallist and 2020 world champion in the event — showed he was a force to be contended with.
The 35-year-old of Calgary stormed out of the gate, improving with each lap in a display of control and power. He cheered at the end of his race, pleased with his time of 6 minutes 20.941 seconds.
It took Swedish speed skater Nils van der Poel posting a new track record of 6:15.562 to unseat him for gold. Patrick Roest of the Netherlands secured bronze.
"For me, this World Cup is really exciting. To be back in a 'normal' competition with all of the athletes competing is a great feeling," said Bloemen in a media release.
"I knew I was in good shape based on my races in the pre-season and training here in Poland, but there is always the question mark about how good the other countries will be. It was fun to find out that I'm doing really well, even on a slower rink, where my reliance on technique isn't quite as helpful as in fast conditions."
WATCH | Bloemen secures silver with strong race in Poland:
Canada's Graeme Fish of Moose Jaw, Sask., ended in 12th with a time of 6:29.655 , while Jordan Belchos of Toronto came in 16th with 6:35.417.
Weidemann speeds to silver
In the women's 3,000 metre race, Weidemann pushed to the finish and crossed the line in 4:5.255 for silver.
For a time, the mark set by the 26-year-old Ottawa native stood as a new track record — until Dutch speed skater Irene Schouten, who won gold, broke it in 4:04.009. Italy's Francesca Lollobrigida skated away with bronze.
Weidemann, who holds the national title, was paired on the track with fellow Canadian Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa, who placed 8th in 4:08.080. Valérie Maltais of Montreal also competed and placed 12th in 4:13.143.
WATCH | Weidemann wins silver at season-opening World Cup stop:
"It was a hard race out there today. The ice is not very forgiving, so I was exhausted by the end," said Weidemann.
"I'm really happy with my performance though, which is a positive start to the season. The season is so long and we've been building quite a bit through the last competitions. So I'm trying not to read into this one too much and am looking forward to the Olympics and our team trials at the end of December. That's when we want to start really picking things up!"
Dubreuil captures bronze
Dubreuil also achieved a podium finish in the men's 500-metre race — an event he dominated at the recent nationals.
The 29-year-old from Lévis, Que. and reigning world champion finished in a time of 34.687, just 0.141 behind silver-winning Tatsuya Shinhama of Japan.
Tinguy Gao of China was golden with a new track record of 34.265.
WATCH | Dubreuil skates to bronze in men's 500m:
"To start the season with a podium, that's really ideal. While we are concentrating on our own performance, this proves to me right away that I have the legs to compete with the best all season. It wasn't a perfect race either, so I can do better by improving my execution," said Dubreuil.
"Now that I know for certain that I am in good shape, my goal on Sunday will be to let myself give a bit more effort and skate more relaxed."
Meanwhile, fellow Canadian Gilmore Junio of Calgary was in 16th with 35.229. Alex Boisvert-Lacroix, of Sherbrooke, Que., was just behind him in 17th with 35.304.
A new track record was also set in the women's 500-metre race, with American Erin Jackson flying to the finish in a time of 37.613.
The United States speed skater broke the record set that same day by Japan's Nao Kodaira — the 2018 Olympic champion in the event — who won silver. Russia's Olga Fatkulina placed third.
Canada's Heather Mclean secured a 14th-place finish with her time of 38.58, while the Canadian national champion in the event Brooklyn McDougall finished 17th (38.804.) Marsha Hudey (38.908) came 19th.