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Momentum fizzles on Canmore speed skater after World Champs bronze

Connor Howe helps Canada's team pursuit win bronze.

CALGARY – Speed skater Connor Howe started the biggest competition of the season with a bang, but the long track specialist couldn’t carry momentum throughout the rest of the World Champs.

Howe, a 2022 Olympian from Canmore, was part of Canada’s quick bronze medal-winning men’s team pursuit at the ISU World Speed Skating Single Distances Championships in Calgary at the Olympic Oval from Feb. 15-18.

But the national champion in the 1,000-metre and 1,500m was far from stepping on the box in individual races, where high hopes fell short.

“The weekend started off good with a strong team pursuit … It's a hard race and it always takes a bit out of me, so [Saturday] wasn’t great in the 1,000 [placing 19th], but I was hoping I could put it together [Sunday],” said Howe. 

“I was really focusing on my speed, so my first 300 metres [of the 1,500m] felt great, but I don’t know. I felt like I was sinking into the ice and not really gliding, so it was hard work out there and it really took it out of me for that last lap.”

He said he was surprised the first lap was slow – he posted the sixth fastest time – which led to 12th place at a time of 1:44.54. Howe’s personal best is 1:42.34, which he achieved at the Olympic Oval last September.

“It was a bit disappointing,” said Howe. “I thought I was coming around the last couple World Cups. I was missing a bit of the easy speed, I guess.”

USA's Jordan Stolz won gold (1:41.44). Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis took silver, while bronze went to Peder Kongshaug of Norway.

Besides a desired podium result, the 23-year-old speed skater Howe had an eye on the long-standing 1,500m Canadian record, set in 2008 at the Calgary Olympic Oval by Denny Morrison at a time of 1:42.01.

Howe said the record “will be a future thing” now that his season has ended.

While Howe looks over videos of the individual races for clues on what went wrong, the speedy Canuck can take comfort in knowing he's become somewhat of a team pursuit specialist.

Friday's bronze was Howe's third World Championship team pursuit medal. In 2021 and 2023, Howe was a part of silver-winning teams.

Traditionally, the lead skater will switch every few laps to give one of the other skaters a turn to push through wind resistance.

However, the six-foot-four Howe led the entire eight-lap, 3,200m distance for the Canadians, which is part of a newer strategy in pursuit that countries are adopting, where the other skaters physically push the team forward with their hands.

Using this strategy, the Canadians – Howe, Hayden Mayeur, Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu – were in first place on the fast Calgary ice with a time of 3:36.72, above the likes of the speed skating heavyweights the United States and Netherlands, after they cruised to victory over France (3:46.15) in their pairing.

A podium spot was guaranteed for Canada when final pairing of Italy and Norway stepped on the ice.

From the third lap onward, the Italians held the lead though. The Norwegians came on strong in the final two laps to pass the Canadians' time.

Italy won gold at a time of 3:35.00, which was their first team pursuit World Championship title in the country’s history.

“We knew we could do a very good race, because we tried it out in practice a couple of days ago and we skated a really flat and good pace," said Andrea Giovannini, in a media release. "After the first pair, we saw the times of the other teams, and we knew we could be a little bit better. Once into the race it felt really good. With a really flat pace on 26.0 seconds (lap times) we took it to the end.”

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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