CALGARY – It was one helluva a week for Connor Howe, Canada’s newest Olympian.
The 21-year-old speed skating star will be making his Winter Olympic Games debut in February after pre-qualifying in the men's 1,500 metre and Team Pursuit races with double podiums at the ISU World Cup in Calgary last weekend.
"The Olympic qualification is always in the back of our heads, but we try to just skate the race as best we can and I think it worked out," said Howe, Canada's top 1500m skater.
The former Banff-Canmore Speed Skating pupil won silver and his first individual podium in the men's 1500m and bronze in Team Pursuit on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 11-12) at the Calgary Olympic Oval to become Canmore's first athlete to pre-qualify for Beijing.
“It was really exciting, especially being the home rink," said Howe. "I'm a little bit more familiar and confident here so I think it helped for sure."
🚨Medal Alert🚨— Speed Skating Canada | Patinage de Vitesse Canada (@SSC_PVC) December 12, 2021
Strong race by the men's Team Pursuit with bronze 🥉 here in Calgary. @CBCOlympics @RC_Sports @TeamCanada @Equipe_Canada @AB_SpeedSkating pic.twitter.com/0AyaWUJk5f
With big strides and an attacking pace, Howe scored a personal best time of 1:42.42 in the 1,500m – 0.13 seconds faster than his previous career best and more than a second faster than his gold medal performance at the 2021 Canadian Long Track Championships in October.
In the extremely tight men’s 1,500m standings, only nine world cup points separated fourth to ninth place.
After four world cups, Calgary being the final, the top-eight ranked skaters and teams pre-qualify to Beijing.
Before the weekend races, Howe was sitting seventh in the standings with 106 points. Along with teammates Jordan Belchos and Ted-Jan Bloeman, the Canadians were fourth and had a little bit more breathing room than Howe did individually.
The long track specialist went head-to-head in the 1,500m on home soil with Japan’s Seitaro Ichinohe, who was sixth in the standings with 110 points, in the last of 10 races on Saturday.
Leading in the race, the charging Howe was up 0.56 seconds on first place's Joey Mantia of the United States entering the final lap at the Olympic Oval.
Howe knew he was in first heading into the last lap by looking at the giant screen lap board.
"From last week [in Salt Lake City], I saw that I could hold the speed really good so I really tried to attack the first 700 metres and I knew I could build up time that way, so I did that," he said.
Mantia finished first at a time of 1:41.86. Norway's Allan Dahl Johansson rounded out the podium, claiming bronze.
Howe's huge silver in Calgary catapults him up to third overall in the standings with 160 points.
In the Team Pursuit, the Canadians snatched the last podium after a comeback from a slow start. Howe, Belchos and Bloeman fell back as far as seventh in Sunday's race, but turned on the jets and battled back to bronze at a time of 3:38.60, ending up third in world cup ranking.
The USA claimed top spot and Norway was silver.
Howe was also competing to pre-qualify for the Games in the men's 1000m, but came up short, placing sixth in the race.
He finished 12th in world cup ranking and will have one more chance to qualify for the 1000m at Olympic Skate Off from Dec. 27-31 in Quebec City.