(Quebec) Gaétan Boucher already told Laurent Dubreuil how the Soviets sometimes looked at him with admiration. As for the work they put into training, they could only respect this Canadian rival who managed to defeat them.
Already last year Dubreuil praised Stolz, comparing him to a modern Eric Heiden. The Wisconsin native, like the legendary Heiden, had just become the youngest male winner of a World Cup event. At 18, he was ahead of his closest pursuer, Canada’s brightest hope, Connor Howe, almost four years his senior, by 1.76s over 1500m, a gulf.
Dubreuil does not hide it, he has the same admiration for the American skater Jordan Stolz, whom he will face twice in the 500 meters at the World Cup of long track speed skating in Quebec, from Friday to Sunday.
In Calgary in December 2022, Stolz continued his momentum, reaching the podium three times and setting a world junior and American record to win silver in the 500 meters, just ahead of Dubreuil.
It was just the prelude to an extraordinary season. In the Junior World Championships he won six medals, four of them gold, and the lead in the general classification. Less than a month later, he won gold in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters at the World Distance Championships, becoming the youngest champion in history and the first man to win three titles at the same World Championships. Amazing.
In the 500 m, he beat Dubreuil, the defending champion, by 36 hundredths, another big difference.
“A little like Gaétan, I know the effort and preparation I have put in, and also the years,” Dubreuil said after Thursday’s midday training session. I know how hard it is to stay on top. Is he better than me in the 500 meters? It’s debatable, but it’s the only race I’m competitive in, while he…”
When there is someone better than me at that moment, yes, I have admiration, because I couldn’t do that. Not at all, not at all, not at all. When you know what it takes, it’s doubly impressive.
Laurent Dubreuil, on Jordan Stolz
For at least two years, the Lévis athlete has analyzed Stolz’s technique on video, without being able to reproduce what he observes on his screen. What surprises you the most?
“It’s your turn,” responded the winner of 35 medals on the circuit. It’s the best curve in the world, the best I’ve ever seen in my life. For years I’ve been told I have one of the best spins in the world. However, when I see him do it, I get the impression that he is playing a different sport! »
Dubreuil watches as the 19-year-old American manages to plant the blade of his left skate into the ice as he crosses, as if leaning on an athletic starting block.
“We, to a certain extent, experience the curve when we reach 60 km/h. (…) He, the power is directly in the ice. You can get stronger, but in skating, if you’re not able to transfer that strength to the ice, it won’t change anything. It sounds like you’re making the most of all the energy your body can give you. And his body provides her with more than anyone else on the planet! It’s like the perfect combination of physicality and technique. »
A few minutes earlier, Gregor Jelonek, Dubreuil’s coach, offered a similar view of the Stolz phenomenon, deferentially describing the fluidity of his skating, which gives him “perfect propulsion.”
“It looks like it’s made of rubber,” explained the coach imitating the movement. It adapts well to ice. There is a beautiful marriage between the force of your push and the slide. There aren’t many skaters who can do that. »
This ability allows him to “never break” over longer distances, such as 1,500 m, marvels Jelonek, who also does not hesitate to describe Stolz as the “Eric Heiden of our time,” alluding to the five-time gold medalist. at the Lake Placid Olympic Games in 1980.
Last week in Salt Lake City, Jordan Stolz hung four individual gold medals around his neck (500 m, 2 x 1,000 m, 1,500 m), in addition to lowering the 1,000 m world record by more than three tenths. To top off his weekend, he competed in the 5,000 m (15my), a way to prepare for the Allround World Championship, one of his main objectives this season. He is even thinking about participating in the World Sprint Championship, which will take place in four days!
“Like all great athletes, he doesn’t set limits for himself,” Jelonek observed. Plus, he’s young. He does not protect himself by saying, “I will not run this race to protect myself.” He goes there and then asks himself questions. He looks at the time and sees what he is like. The same thing happens to Laurent. They are guys who always give their all in every race. »
In Utah, Dubreuil compared competing with Stolz to “playing golf with Tiger Woods,” an experience he can tell his kids about when he’s older. The parallel made the main interested party blush.
“I became stronger”
On Thursday, luckily, Stolz appeared in the mixed zone while his Canadian rival was being interrogated by him. Press. Dubreuil switched to English to call his opponent an “imbecile,” a joke the American knew was fake, of course.
Accompanied by his coach Bob Corby, 73, a former mentor to Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair, Stolz rattled off his answers as fast as he skated.
Impressed by the Gaétan-Boucher track, which he found “magnificent” and “more beautiful” than those he had already visited, he reveled in the idea of competing against Dubreuil in two 500 m, in addition to competing in the 1000 m and 1500 m.
“It will be a good competition,” predicted the blonde boy, just over six feet tall. The whole crowd will cheer him; It will be me against Quebec! »
Stolz, however, will be able to count on the presence of his parents, including his father Dirk, a police officer who installed an ice rink on a pond in his backyard in Kewaskun, a town located 45 minutes north of Milwaukee. Jordan learned to skate there at the age of five, after following the competitions at the Vancouver Games in 2010. His compatriot Apolo Anton Ohno, a fantastic triple medalist in short track, had a special influence on him.
Stolz played short track until his teens, before dedicating himself fully to long track. A few years later, he qualified for the Beijing Games at the age of 17.
“I always felt good on the ice, but I got stronger,” he noted. I started getting stronger working with Bob four years ago. He did a lot more weight training and cycling. I became very strong and maintained my feelings on the ice. »
It is not Laurent Dubreuil who contradicts him.
Sharing cheese with the Dutch
Thanks to his success last year, Stolz signed a three-year contract with a Dutch professional team, Team Albert Heijn Zaanlander, the name of a gouda cheese exclusive to a major supermarket chain. Commercial above all, this deal also gives him access to camps with his Dutch teammates, like this cycling tour he completed in the Italian Alps last fall. Do you even like cheese? “The cheese is good,” he responded with the naturalness of a teenager, making his friend burst out laughing. coach Beto.
Group B for Dubreuil
Dubreuil, affected by tendinitis in one knee before the start of the season, was unable to regain his competitiveness in the 1,000 meters. Therefore, the Olympic silver medalist in the distance moved between groups A and B during the season. In Quebec, he will start this Friday in group B. His participation in this event is motivated solely by the national qualification process for the World Single Distance Championships in Calgary, from February 15 to 18. And yet he gives it little importance. “If I don’t get a place, ultimately I don’t care, I have no chance of medaling,” Dubreuil said. The 1,000 m, however, is of capital importance for the World Sprint Championships to be held in Inzell in March, where he currently estimates to be among the top five in the 500/1,000 m cumulative.