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Canmore speed skater Howe thrilled with Olympics debut, even with 'extra pressure’

“I kept the skating relaxed as opposed to getting tight, so I was able to carry my speed pretty well to the end.”

BEIJING – After a Winter Olympics debut like Canmore’s Connor Howe, the future of Canada’s men’s speed skating is in good hands.

The 21-year-old long track specialist sprinted to fifth place in the men’s 1,500m on Tuesday (Feb. 8) at the Ice Ribbon, the crown jewel of Beijing’s Olympic venues.

“I’m happy how I was able to execute one of my best races at my Olympic debut, with the extra pressure,” Howe wrote to the Outlook. “I kept the skating relaxed as opposed to getting tight, so I was able to carry my speed pretty well to the end.”

Paired against Norway's Allan Dahl Johansson, Howe punched the pace to easily take the head-to-head pairing at a time of 1:44.86 – 0.62 seconds off a podium.

Netherlands skater Kjeld Nuis repeated as Olympic champion in the event and his countryman Thomas Krol took silver.

South Korea's Kim Min-seok finished with bronze.

RELATED: Connor Howe: Bow Valley's Beijing Bound Athletes

“Getting on the podium was a long shot I think, so I’m happy with 5th,” said Howe, who won a world cup silver medal in the event this past December in Calgary.

The former Banff Canmore Speed Skater finished ahead of gold medal favourite and the top-ranked skater in the event, Joey Mantia of the United States, who finished sixth place.

With the opening ceremony and his debut in the rear-view mirror, Howe can breathe a bit easier and look forward to the remaining two events he’ll compete in: team pursuit and 1,000m.

Along with Canadians Jordan Belchos and Ted-Jan Bloeman, Howe and his teammates are surely eyeing a podium at the event in Beijing – and for good reason. The trio, ranked third in the world in team pursuit, has won four world cup medals and one world championship silver over the past two seasons.

On Feb. 13 at 6 a.m. is the men’s team pursuit quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals start at midnight on Feb. 15.

The men’s 1,000m is on Feb. 18 at 1:30 a.m. All times MST.

Prior to the 1,500m race, many considered the ice at the Ice Ribbon to be slow, but those thoughts were quickly eradicated by the medal-winning Dutchmen after the two-decade old Olympic record was broken twice in a matter of minutes.

First, Krol’s 1:43:55 beat U.S.A’s Derek Parra’s record of 1:43.95 – a longstanding record since 2002 Salt Lake City.

However, this newly won Olympics record didn’t take 20 years to beat this time because immediately following Krol’s feat, countryman Nuis bested it by 0.34 seconds at a time of 1:43.21.

Nuis now holds the event’s Olympic record and world record at a time of 1:40.17.

"I can’t believe it. I’ve dreamed about this but wasn’t so confident as from four years ago," said Nuis in a press release. “I tried to get some confidence out of my last race, which was the European Championships when I beat Thomas Krol.

“My path since the last Olympics was pretty solid. A lot of World Cup wins, two world titles. I have come far, but it was the Europeans that gave me confidence.”

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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