CALGARY â€” Vincent De Haitre had been convinced that he could shatter the Canadian 1,000-metre record for years.
He did it on Saturday at the opening day of the world sprint speedskating championships at the Olympic Oval.
De Haitre, of Cumberland, Ont., blazed to a time of one minute 6.72 seconds, toppling the 10-year-old standard established by the Jeremy Wotherspoon, 1:07.03, in Salt Lake City.
Wotherspoon, in his capacity as coach of Norway’s sprint team, just happened to be stationed near the finish line during De Haitre’s race.
“It’s always mixed (emotions) when you have a record and you’d like to keep it,” said Wotherspoon, 40. “But, I mean, it had to be broken one day because everyone’s learning from the previous people how to skate well, how to improve, what to do to go fast.
“Even though I don’t work for Canada, of course I like to see Canadians as some of the best skaters in the world.”
De Haitre had already been in the midst of a breakout season with a gold at a World Cup event in Kazakhstan in December and a silver at the world single-distance championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea two weeks ago.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” said De Haitre. “It’s nice to know that (Wotherspoon) was only a few metres away from me when I broke it. It definitely means a lot. I definitely looked up to him as a younger skater. Knowing that I’m competing with some of the best is definitely a huge motivational factor going into the next couple years.”
The 22-year-old said he felt sluggish before the race.
“But I just stayed focused on what I needed to execute, staying relaxed and being strong at the same time,” said De Haitre. “Not hyperventilating or anything. Just staying calm and doing what I’ve been doing best, which is working on my high-speed turns and allowing myself to carry my speed through the race.”
De Haitre is second going into Sunday’s races â€” champions are determined by cumulative ranking â€” trailing Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands. Laurent Dubreuil, of Levis, Que., who, at 1:08.07, posted his second personal best of the day, is 10th.
De Haitre sees room for improvement.
“I think I can beat that time,” he said. “I had one mistake going into the last turn. I can fix that and, hopefully, take off another 10th (of a second) or two.”
Wotherspoon already likes what he sees from De Haitre.
“He’s really comfortable at speed, so I think that’s a good thing for him,” said Wotherspoon. “This year, he seems to have stabilized his performance a little more, especially the last half of the season. That usually means he’s figured out something that works. He’s definitely a guy to watch. He’s got a lot of years left. You never know where he may end up in a year or two.”
Dubreuil’s clocking of 34.31 seconds in the 500 metres slots him fourth, behind Ronald Mulder of the Netherlands, Kazakhstan’s Roman Krech, and Russia’s Ruslan Murashov.
“I knew that I had great legs throughout the week and I executed pretty good,” said Dubreuil. “I didn’t expect the competition to be this strong. The times are incredibly fast. It’s tough, but I’m right where I want to be.”
On the women’s side, Heather McLean of Winnipeg sits eighth in the 500 metres and 18th in the 1,000.
“I’m a little disappointed,” said McLean. “What I did in my races doesn’t exactly show what I’m capable of. I feel like I got the nerves out of the way.”
Japan’s Nao Kodaira leads at both distances. Trailing her in the 500 metres is Czech Karolina Erbanova and American Heather Bergsma. In the 1,000, Jorien Ter Mors of the Netherlands and Bergsma are second and third.
Scott Cruickshank, The Canadian Press