Disappointment in the skating world! On August 31, 2020 the ISU (International Skating Union) announced that the first four World Cup events of long track speed skating are canceled due to the Corona pandemic. A setback for Laurent Dubreuil (28), the Canadian sprinter who is currently at the peak of his career.
The early months of the pandemic have been difficult for any top athlete. It was no longer an option to train in a group, but perhaps the worst part for the ice-skaters: training on ice was not possible anymore! It probably has been extra difficult for Laurent Dubreuil. He finished third at the 1000 meters World Distances Championships and won a silver medal at the World Sprint Championships last year. “I raced particularly well in the second part of the season, which is also reflected in my results”, Dubreuil says. “The entire second half of the season I felt like I couldn’t do anything wrong on the ice. I was not nervous at all.”
The sprinter still hopes to be able to continue his good form next season. “Even though the next season will be six to seven months later, you always hope that you will race just as well, or perhaps even better,” says Dubreuil. “It’s difficult that I do not know now whether I can still race that fast.” The sprinter has only been on the ice for ten days this summer, but these days felt really good. “My form was right, and my training times were also very good. This makes me think: am I losing the best season of my career?”, Dubreuil speaks with a slight hesistance in his voice. “If I were to ride incredibly bad in practice, I might not even have minded that the races have been postponed”, the Canadian laughs.
Not racing isn’t healthy either
It is only logical for Dubreuil that health always comes first. However, the Quebecker had simply packed the suitcases if the ISU had decided differently. “I would have been extremely careful of course. I don’t want anyone to get the virus because of me, but it’s my job and my passion. Not racing is tough for me, mentally,” the 1000 meter-specialist says. “Whatever the ISU considers safe, I’m there.”
At this moment, the Canadian team still prepares as if they are going to race the World Cups. “Nothing changed about that. Nobody is thinking about taking a year off. The Olympics are in a year and a half which means taking a sabbatical now, would be horrific for your career”, Dubreuil expresses. “Right now, the whole team is just realizing how lucky we even are that we can skate. It Is our most favourite thing to do.”
“One of the advantages of postponing the World Cups is that I can spend even more time with my family in the coming months,” according to Dubreuil, who during quarantine only trained while his 1-year-old daughter was sleeping. The Canadian team will return to Calgary in a few weeks for a training camp. Dubreuil decided to sit this one out so he can spend more time with his family. He takes into account the fact that later in the season he may be away from his girlfriend and daughter for a long time.
The KNSB and House of Sports have previously presented a bubble concept at the ISU, according to an article by De Telegraaf. Several races could be scheduled at one location in a short period of time. This creates a safe environment and still allows racing. “I heard rumours that this was the case a few months ago and in my mind it’s the only possibility”, answers Dubreuil, who is a big fan of Dutch soccer club SC Heerenveen. “I don’t think traveling from one country to the other would be safe right now, so I think it would be a great idea if we would create a bubble in Heerenveen, for example.
Dubreuil is in favor of this plan, however it may be difficult to be away from his family for so long. “Fortunately, there is the internet! My daughter is not yet of the age to realize what is going on and I am at the peak of my career. So, I don’t think there is a better time to plan this concept, for me at least”, Dubreuil says. “There is a lot of planning involved, so I understand that this isn’t suddenly arranged, but where there is a will, there is a way!”