'I have no words': Canada captures dramatic Olympic gold in team pursuit

Team Canada, with Isabelle Weidemann left, Valerie Maltais centre, and Ivanie Blondin, react after wining the gold medal and setting an Olympic record in the speedskating women's team pursuit finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Beijing. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

Canadian long-track speedskaters Isabelle Weidemann, Ivanie Blondin and Valerie Maltais won the gold medal in the team pursuit after beating Japan in a thrilling final on Tuesday at the Beijing Olympics.

Japan's Nana Takagi fell on the final turn with her team in the lead, allowing Canada to post the victory in an Olympic record time of two minutes 53.44 seconds.

“I have no words," Weidemann told CBC. "It’s just so surreal right now. We knew we had a strong team and we knew we could fight today, but this is just unbelievable for us."

It was the second gold medal and 17th medal overall for Canada at the Games.

It also was Weidemann's third medal in Beijing -- she won silver in the 5,000 metres and bronze in the 3,000, with the third-place finish marking Canada's first trip to the podium at the Games.

Weidemann becomes the second Canadian in history to win a gold, silver and bronze at the same Winter Olympics -- joining fellow long-track speed-skater Cindy Klassen (gold, two silver, two bronze at Turin in 2006).

Japan built a lead early in the race, but Canada was charging back and had the gap down to .32 seconds entering the half lap.

Nana Takagi of Team Japan is comforted by teammates after falling during the speedskating women's team pursuit finals at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Beijing. (Ashley Landis/AP Photo)

But Takagi, skating at the back of the Japanese pack, lost her footing on the final turn and crashed into the boards -- giving Canada gold.

Takagi got up and crossed the line far behind her two teammates, finally registering a time for Japan. She was in tears as she was consoled by her sister, Miho Takagi, and the other member of the Japanese team, Ayana Sato.

It ended an eight-day gold drought for Canada -- with snowboarder Max Parrot picking up Canada's only previous Beijing win on Feb. 7 in the slopestyle. Earlier Tuesday, Parrot added a bronze in big air.

After beating the Netherlands in the semifinals in a rematch of last year's World Championship final won by the Dutch, the Canadians earned a shot against a Japanese team that won the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic crown with the same lineup.

In the semis, Canada beat a Dutch team featuring two-time Beijing gold medallist Irene Schouten (3,000, 5,000) and 1,500-metre champ Ireen Wust by 0.98 seconds.

“I think we really believed in our team," Maltais said. "When we crossed the line (in the semifinal) and we were in the final, I think we were all at different stages. I said to the girls ‘we’re on a mission. We’re on a mission here.' I feel good, we feel good and we did a race that wasn’t perfect."

The Netherlands beat the Russians in the bronze-medal race.

Weidemann, Blondin, also from Ottawa, and Maltais, from Saguenay, Que., have been dominant in the team pursuit this season, winning all three World Cup races before the Olympics.

Weidemann, Blondin and Josie Morrison finished fourth in the team pursuit at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Maltais won a silver medal in the 3,000-metre relay in short-track speedskating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She becomes the third athlete in history to win Olympic medals in long and short track.

Maltais is now an Olympic medallist in both forms of speed skating. She previously won silver in the 3000m relay in short track at Sochi 2014. She is just the third athlete in the world to be an Olympic medallist in short track and long track.

It marked Canada's second Olympic medal in women's team pursuit -- the first coming in the event's debut when Canada won silver in 2006.

-- With files from The Associated Press

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