Ted-Jan Bloemen was on pace to medal halfway through his signature event.
Then he started running out of gas.
For the second time in five days, the Canadian speedskater failed to step onto the podium – and failed to meet high expectations – when he finished eighth in the men’s 10,000 metres Friday at the Beijing Olympics.
Bloemen, the defending Olympic champion in the 10,000, was on pace for bronze before fading badly.
He showed signs of fatigue and physical distress, and appeared frustrated while passing his coach during the race, shaking his head.
Five days earlier, the 35-year-old from Calgary also faded in the 5,000, the distance he’d captured Olympic silver in four years ago in Pyeongchang. He ended that race 10th.
Sweden’s Nils van der Poel won gold in Friday’s 10,000 in 12 minutes 30.74 seconds to shatter his own world record. Graeme Fish, a 24-year-old from Moose Jaw, Sask., finished in 12:58.80 for a sixth-place finish. Bloemen crossed in 13.01.39.
It was a great result for Fish, who missed a month of training after contracting COVID-19 in December.
“Honestly, I’m probably back to where I was before I got it. I missed three or four weeks of training just to recover from it. Maybe I could have done better if I didn’t get it. But, honestly, I’m just happy with what I did today. And that’s all I could ask for,” he said. “Maybe it did (affect my performance today), maybe it didn’t. Probably it did. But I’m happy. It doesn’t really matter if I got COVID or not.”
Earlier at the Ice Cube, Canada’s Jennifer Jones did something she’d never done before: lose a match at the Olympic Games.
Jones dropped an 8-5 decision to Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa in women’s curling.
It was her first Olympic defeat after running the table en route to capturing gold at Sochi 2014. She won her opener in Beijing 12-7 over South Korea.
Jones was under pressure from the start Friday and could not settle into a rhythm. Fujisawa ran Jones out of rocks in the 10th end as Canada dropped to 1-1.
“We got behind early but we really fought until the end,” Jones said. “So, I’m proud of how we finished. We just need to be a little bit sharper early.”
Canada’s Brad Gushue was scheduled to play Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz later in men’s curling.
In men’s hockey, a familiar face was back with the Canadian team after a scary accident.
Coach Claude Julien returned to the fold after not initially travelling with the group to China because of a harrowing sledding incident, the coach revealed.
“It was icy, slid off the trail there with the sled, ended up hitting a tree, and fracturing the ribs.”
The initial diagnosis was bruised ribs. A follow-up visit confirmed the damage was far greater: a broken rib and a punctured lung.
“They ended up bringing me to another hospital where they were able to do the surgery.”
Julien credited doctors in Switzerland for his recovery, and Hockey Canada with getting him to China.
Canada (1-0) meets the U.S. (1-0) in their next game.
Skier Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac Etchemin, Que., was pleased with her 14th-place finish in the women’s super-G – 1.14 seconds behind gold medallist Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland.
“I really attacked and put it all on the line through all the sections. There were little mistakes here and there but it was a really tight race,” said Gagnon.
Roni Remme of Collingwood, Ont., was 24th after completing her run in one minute 15.78 seconds.
At the Yanqing National Sliding Centre, Ottawa’s Mirela Rahneva set a track record in the opening heat in women’s skeleton, crossing the finish line in 1:02.03. A slower second heat saw the Canadian drop into ninth.
Jane Channell of North Vancouver, B.C., was 17th after the second heat.
In the men’s 15-kilometre cross country ski race, three Canadians were in the top-40.
Olivier Leveille of Sherbrooke, Que., was 29th, finishing nearly three minutes after gold-medal winner Iivo Niskanen of Finland. Remi Drolet of Rossland, B.C., was 33rd, while Antoine Cyr of Gatineau, Que., came in 37th.
—The Canadian Press