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Canmore speed skater's remarkable world cup increases odds for Beijing berth

Another world cup and more big performances by Canmore's Connor Howe.

POLAND – Add another world cup medal and personal best result to the quickly expanding resumé of speed skating sensation Connor Howe.

The 21-year-old from Canmore and Canadian teammates won silver at the season-opening International Skating Union (ISU) speed skating world cup in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland this past weekend (Nov. 12-14) and, individually, Howe skated to a world cup best fifth in the 1,500-metre that made his chances of attending the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics Games even greater.

"I am happy with my 1500m and how I executed my race plan in terms of technique and pacing," said Howe, Canada's top 1,500m skater. "It feels good to have my best finish yet, especially for the first world cup of the year."

The impressive milestone is hot off the heels of Howe's gold medal performance at last month's 2021 Canadian Long Track Championships as he's emerging as one long track's most promising podium threats for years to come.

With the team's silver medal and top-five result in the world cup, Howe jumps closer to pre-qualifying to be nominated to Canada's 2022 Olympic squad.

Currently ranked fifth in the world at 1,500m (individual) and Canada is second in men's team pursuit, Howe and the team must remain in the top-eight at the end of the next three world cups in order to punch tickets to Beijing.

If outside of the top-eight, a battle to get to China goes down in a do-or-die Olympic Skate-Off in Quebec City between Dec. 27-31.

"I'm pretty sure I can do it in the 1,500, and the 1000m might have to be at the skate-off in Quebec," said Howe.

In the men's team pursuit, the podium over the past two seasons have been owned by two nations: Canada and the Netherlands.

If Sunday's results are any indication, the two nations should ease into the Olympics and continue their rivalry on the big stage.

At the first world cup of the season, the trio of Howe, Jordan Belchos and Ted-Jan Bloemen chased the mighty Netherlands team, which is an early favourite to win gold in Beijing.

The Dutch trio crossed the finish line at 3:44.567 to win, but the Canadians surely had their counterparts feeling the heat when heading into the last two laps with a more than two second lead. However, the Canucks slowed and couldn't maintain the up-tempo pace and faded by the time they crossed the line at 3:45.763. 

The Japanese finished third with a time of 3:45.817.

"Ted and Jordan were very strong in the team pursuit so it went pretty good despite me getting behind with 1.5 laps to go and we just managed silver ahead of Japan," said Howe.

"We came into the team pursuit pretty confident because of how strong we were last year, as well as the work that we’ve done together since then," said Belchos in a press release. "Connor and Ted had great individual performance this weekend, which was also motivating for me coming into today’s race. We skated really well and weren’t far off from putting it all together; I think we are absolutely capable of winning when we do."

Earlier that day, Howe finished fifth in the 1,000m (B race). He needed a top-three placing to jump up to the A division.

The next three world cups include Stavanger, Norway (Nov. 19-21), Salt Lake City, USA (Dec. 3-5) and wrapping things up in Calgary (Dec.10-12).

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