Abigail McCluskey is in the Netherlands training to compete in the World Cup next month. She joins 12 Canadian speedskaters for the international competition later this month. (Dave Holland CSI Calgary)

Penticton speed skater in Netherlands for World Cup

Abigail McCluskey will be skating the long track in the international competition

Penticton’s Abigail McCluskey is in the Netherlands to compete in the World Cup later this month.

According to speedskating.ca, 13 Canadian speed skaters, including McCluskey, are gearing up to compete internationally for the first time since March 2020.

McCluskey has qualified to compete in the 1500m and 3000m races.

After a series of negative test results and a brief quarantine period, the 13 Canadian long track speed skaters have entered the “bubble” and are gearing up to compete in a pair of unique World Cup events later this month – the team’s first since the COVID-19 pandemic brought international competition to a halt last March.

While the 2020-2021 season may be condensed, the hub in Heerenveen will offer the world’s top skaters the much-anticipated opportunity to compete against one another.

The ISU World Cup circuit, which in a normal season consists of six events, will be contested over two events on Jan. 22-24 and Jan. 29-31. Skaters will then have one weekend off to rest before hitting the ice again for the ISU World Speed Skating Championships Feb. 11-14.

It has been a difficult season for the entire high-performance program, which has had limited access to long track ice after the Olympic Oval in Calgary closed its doors in September due to a mechanical issue.

Leading the charge for Canada are veteran long-distance skaters Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, Ont.), Ted-Jan Bloemen (Calgary, Alta.), Jordan Belchos (Toronto, Ont.), Isabelle Weidemann (Ottawa, Ont.) and converted short track Olympian Valérie Maltais (Saguenay, Que.). They will be joined by Quebec-based sprint specialist Laurent Dubreuil (Lévis, Que.) and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix (Sherbrooke, Que.), along with Calgary-based sprinters Kaylin Irvine (Calgary, Alta.), Gilmore Junio (Calgary, Alta.) and Heather McLean (Winnipeg, Man.).

A trio of NextGen skaters – McCluskey (Penticton, B.C.), Béatrice Lamarche (Quebec City, Que.) and Connor Howe (Canmore, Alta.) – will also lace up the skates.

Penticton’s McCluskey led the way for the Canadian long track team at the ISU Junior World Cup Speed Skating, earning five medals throughout the weekend of competition.

Competing in the first World Cup event of her career, McCluskey impressed at the event held in Poland with two gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

READ MORE: Penticton speedskater speeds her way to the top

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