CALGARY — Canadian speedskater Ted-Jan Bloemen wanted to challenge himself — and his rival.
Feeling strong in the early stages, Bloemen decided to take a run at Dutch legend Sven Kramer in the men's 5,000 metres Friday at the ISU World Cup stop at the Olympic Oval. The attack did not pay off.
"Obviously, he came back at me and I died off in the last couple laps," said Bloemen. "But, all in all, I'm happy with my performance."
Kramer finished in six minutes 7.04 seconds while Bloemen earned silver in 6:08.54. Third place went to Germany's Patrick Beckert.
"I'm happy to be closer and closer to him," Bloemen said of Kramer.
The Canadian team improved its own world record in men's team sprint, a relatively new (and non-Olympic) event.
The foursome of Vincent De Haitre of Ottawa, Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., Gilmore Junio of Calgary and Alexandre St-Jean of Quebec City finished in 1:17.31, beating the Russians by nearly a second. The Netherlands took third.
"Skating here is always really special and skating a world record with these guys makes it even better," said Junio. "To do it in front of friends and family is pretty special.
"As far as Team Canada, this just generates momentum for our whole team. We're going to try to build on that going into the other distances."
The feature pairing of Kramer and Bloemen had the rink buzzing.
"(Kramer) is a really special one," said Bloemen, a native of the Netherlands who's been racing for Canada since 2014. "He's been so good for a decade now. He's always super consistent. He's always there. He wins everything. That's something we can all learn from, I think, and it's something I highly respect."
Bloemen trails only Kramer in World Cup rankings for the 5,000 metres.
"In a season like this, these aren't the races that really count, right?" said Bloemen. "There's only one race that really counts and that's the race at the Olympics (February in PyeongChang, South Korea). I really hope to be on the top podium there."
Kramer, like Bloemen, is 31 years old. He has won nine world championships, nine European championships, and 19 world single-distance gold medals in addition to three golds at the Winter Games.
"I really can't control how good he's going to be at the Olympics," said Bloemen. "So, for me, the most important thing is that I make sure I'm as good as I can be and I throw down the best race that I have in me at that moment. Then, may the best man win."
Earlier Firday, Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin finished 10th, one rung behind Isabelle Weidemann, also of Ottawa in the women's 3,000 metres.
For Blondin, who arrived in Calgary as the top skater in the World Cup rankings, it was a disappointment.
"Obviously, it's not a very good representation of what I've been able to do this year," said Blondin, who, like many of her teammates, was sick after returning to Canada following November's races in Norway. "The first week was a little bit of a write-off. Usually, we come home, we relax a little bit, and start training again and preparing for the future."
Gold went to Miho Takagi of Japan, followed by Antoinette De Jong of the Netherlands and Ireen Wust of the Netherlands.
"I obviously didn't have as much energy (Friday) as I planned on having, which is frustrating," said Blondin. "But, at the same time, being sick and finishing 10th is not that horrible, either."
Racing continues Saturday and Sunday.
Scott Cruickshank, The Canadian Press