Battle lines drawn for short track speed skating World Cup team trials this Friday to Sunday in Calgary

Some familiar faces could give Canada’s World Cup short track speed skating team a new look for the 2007-08 season following the national team trials this Friday to Sunday (September 21-23) at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.

Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal, Tania Vicent of Verchères, Que., and Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., all members of the 2006 Olympic team, return this season after not competing last winter. Turcotte took a year off to rest while the others recovered from injuries.

This weekend’s trials will determine ’s team for this fall’s World Cup competitions October 19-21 in Harbin , October 26-28 in Kobe, , November 23-25 at Heerenveen, the and November 30-December 2 in Torino, .

This weekend's winners at 500, 1000 and 1500 metres will gain an automatic team selection along with the best overall finisher not among those winners. The fifth and sixth team members will be determined by the high performance short track committee.

The trials are being held earlier this year to get the competitors accustomed to racing at this period. The Olympic team trials are slated for September 2009.

‘’The ice is very fast in Calgary and that always makes for very close races,’’ said Yves Hamelin, Speed Skating ’s short track program director. ‘’You can’t make mistakes. The skaters will need to be vigilant.’’

Favorites in men’s competition include Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., the world champion in the 500-metres, the Monette brothers – Jean-François and Marc-André – along with Steve Robillard and Mathieu Giroux both of Montreal as well as Turcotte and Guilmette. Two-time World Cup 500-metre winner Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que. will not race due to injury.

Development team members are also hoping to make some noise.
‘’We expect familiar names to battle it out once again this year for the top spots,’’ said Yves Hamelin. ‘’But we’ve seen a big improvement from our development team members so far this year. That should give us plenty of depth.’’

On the women’s side, Kraus and Vicent can expect tough challenges from Kalyna Roberge of Ste-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que., the world 500-metre champion, Amanda Overland of Montreal, Anne Maltais of Quebec City, Nita Avrith of Montreal and 16-year-old Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa .

‘’About a half-dozen of our top prospects in women’s racing have moved to the national training centres this year,’’ said Hamelin. ‘’They have a lot of potential. So it could affect the standings this weekend.’’

The trials start at noon local time on Friday and Saturday with 1,500 and 500 metre races respectively and Sunday at 10 a.m. with the 1,000m.

The final two World Cup events are February 1-3 in Quebec City and the following weekend in Salt Lake City . The World Championships are March 7-9 in Gangneung, and the World Team Championships March 15-16 in Beijing . The Junior World Championships are January 11-13 in Bolzano, . Montreal will play host to the Canadian Open Championships January 18-20.

‘’The last two seasons in an Olympic cycle are always crucial,’’ said Hamelin. ‘’We want to ice the best team possible for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and we also want to develop skaters for the next cycle. We want to expose those young skaters as much as we can to the international level this season. We did that last year and it was a big success.’’