For the past month, several athletes from the Canadian long track speed skating team have been isolated in the bubble town of Heerenveen for the resumption of World Cup activities. Faced with a lot of uncertainty, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu and David La Rue, however, decided not to join them and to stay at home this year.
Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu was returning from training on the Plains of Abraham when he was joined by Sportcom. An outing that illustrates the freedom he feared losing by leaving for Europe for a period of two months.
“Every year when I leave, I find it hard to be away from the people I love, not to see my wife, my family and my dog. Reliving that in confinement, I think it would have been difficult mentally, ”he said.
The 28-year-old did not notice any negative repercussions in rejecting the proposal of the International Skating Union (ISU). For him, the choice was simple: he preferred to take advantage of these two months to train more in preparation for the Olympic qualification process.
“After a good discussion with my coach, I allowed myself to take this moment to come back to basics and build on it and then propel myself into the next season. ”
The risks surrounding the contagion of COVID-19 have also been taken into consideration, while Gélinas-Beaulieu lives with respiratory problems.
“In the end, it’s a bunch of factors that made me prefer to surpass myself in my little home rather than going for a quest for performance. I felt that for me, it was a step backwards to go there, ”said the film studies student.
I am not disappointed with my decision, although I know that I could have performed well on the international stage. My physical preparation was A1, I learned a lot from that. I can use it next year.
More to lose than to gain
David La Rue is another regular on the World Cup circuit who has overlooked the Dutch bubble format. Like Gélinas-Beaulieu, Larue felt he had more to lose than to gain by accompanying his teammates.
A little less than a year ago, during the World Sprint Championships, the skater from Saint-Lambert suffered tears in his groin and adductor tendons. An injury that took several months to resolve and which still bothered Larue this fall, especially in his starts in the 500m.
It was agreed with his trainer Gregor Jelonek that it would be better not to rush his return and thus risk mortgaging the next season, where an Olympic qualification will be at stake.
“I had a very close follow-up with the physiotherapists and gradually, we saw that it was not improving quickly enough. I had not done a single race for almost a year and in my situation, we saw unnecessary risks, ”said La Rue.
The latter counts himself lucky under the circumstances. The postponement of the World Cup stages allowed him to focus on his rehabilitation, without the temptation to participate in certain stages of the calendar.
“It would have been harder mentally with a normal schedule. There, I can build on the comeback and when my body is ready, I’m going to be really looking forward to getting back on track. ”
The Canadian team has had success so far at Thialf, the ice ring in the town of Heerenveen. Valérie Maltais took the top step of the podium on two occasions in the team pursuit, alongside her teammates Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann. Laurent Dubreuil meanwhile won four individual medals, two bronze and two silver.
Performance that Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu and David La Rue consider encouraging, especially since their compatriots were very limited in terms of training on the ice due to a break in the Calgary ice rink.
“It’s impressive and fun to see the results. A guy like Laurent who barely touched the ice in the last year who manages to finish in the best in the world, it shows all the resilience of the Canadiens and it motivates me in training, ”said David La Rue.
“We are used to adapting and we know how to do it with little! »Added Gélinas-Beaulieu. “It’s a strength for us not to get caught up in a routine and to always have to be creative in training. ”
Long track speed skaters who have competed at the last World Cups are now preparing for the World Championships, scheduled for February 11-14. In addition to Maltais and Dubreuil, Quebeckers Alex Boisvert-Lacroix and Béatrice Lamarche will also be in action.