LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – On the glistening ice of Lake Placid’s outdoor speed skating oval, Canada’s Laura Hall and Rose-Anne Grenier are pushing each other to be better.
The Canadian duo skated their nation to a double podium performance on Monday in the women’s 3000m, with Hall, a student-athelete at the University of Calgary skating to gold in a time of 4:25.70 and Grenier, of Universite Laval capturing bronze in 4:29.10
Yet, while earning Canada’s first double podium since 2003 was a boon for the two and the Canadian delegation, it’s just another step in their careers.
At the end of the day, for some sports, including speed skating, the FISU World University Games are a stepping stone for the Olympics and World Cups. That’s a fact not lost on Hall, Canada’s second gold medalist of the Games, who started her first world cup events earlier this season.
“It was definitely a bit of a confidence boost to have those world cup starts at the start of the season,” she said after her medal ceremony, gold medal sparkling off the campfire adorning Lake Placid’s Main Street.
“I knew coming into this race I had a good shot, and I was able to pull it off.”
Indeed, she pulled it off and did so with a bit of history of her own, as she smashed through the track record in Lake Placid, once held by Norwegian skater Bjorg Eva Jensen, who achieved the time at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“I saw the record beforehand and kind of wanted to aim for that — just started fast and was able to keep the pace long enough to get it,” Hall said post-race. “I could hear the announcer throughout the race. I counted two laps to go; I heard that I was on a good pace for that. And then when I crossed the line, I could look on the board and see I’d gotten it.”
It wasn’t just Hall breaking the 1980 Olympic and track records. On the men’s side, Italy’s gold and silver winners Ricardo Lorello and Daniele De Stefano smashed 1980 Olympic champion Eric Heiden’s record of 7:02.29, which stood 43 years.
Ranked 33rd in the world coming into the race, there were medal hopes for Hall, and with her teammate, Grenier, pushing her to deliver on the final pair, the ultra-competitive spirit within the Canadian squad shined through.
Although Grenier hasn’t yet made her debut in on the world cup, she pushed into the elite last season, continuing to set personal bests, including setting a trio of PBs in the 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m at the Calgary Olympic Oval in 2022.
“I knew we could do it,” Grenier said of standing on the podium with a fellow Canadian. “To actually experience it is amazing.”
While the FISU University Games may be a few steps back from the Olympics and the pinnacles of sport, Monday was a watershed day for the two Canadians, as they captured a first international win and first international podium, all while pushing each other to take every stride a bit faster.
“I couldn’t have asked for better weather and better ice at my first international competition…I can’t ask for anything better! I’m really happy.”
While not on the podium, fellow Canadian Laurie Cayer finished the 3000m event in eighth place, skating the distance in a time of 4:41.01.
The speed skating competitions are far from over at the Lake Placid 2023 Games. If Canada’s three medals in two days are any indication, there could be more memorable moments in these young athletes’ careers in the coming days.
On Tuesday, Canada’s mid-length skaters look to medal in the 1500m races before the long track events round off with the 500m, team pursuit, relay and mass start.