Canada Adds Two Medals to its Asian Harvest

The Canadian relay teams added a silver and a bronze to Canada’s medal count in conclusion of the Seoul World Cup, today. Canadian short trackers captured a total of nine World Cup Medals over two weekends in Asia, while their focus has always been to use those competition as a build up to the next two stops of the circuit, in Montreal and Marquette, Michigan, as those will be used to determine Olympic quotas.

The men did not have an easy path to the final, but Charles and François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC) were able to rally together and win their semi-final heat, that could have easily been the final itself as they were facing Korea, the United States and Japan, three strong relay teams.

“We were really solid in the relay,” said François Hamelin. “We had good exchanges, we planned the races well, Derrick [Campbell, the men’s coach] was really happy after our race.” And rightly so, as Team Canada finished first in 6:57.574, ahead of Korea in 6:57.861, the United States (6:59.431) and Japan (7:00.435).

The same athletes competed in the final, hoping to repeat their semi-final performance. “We were confident we could win the final,” continued Hamelin. And it was close, as Canadian athletes were first in the last exchange, but Korea managed to pass them in the last lap, and when Tremblay was preparing to pass him back in the last corner, he slightly touched a block and lost his speed, finishing second in 6:53.441. Korea won in 6:53.199, and China took the bronze medal far behind in 6:58.631. “We’re still proud, we are looking forward and we’re definitely going for gold in the next two world cups.”

On the women side, Tania Vicent (Laval, QC), Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne de Lauzon, QC) and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) took part in the semi-final, and they finished second of their heat behind the powerful Chinese team.

“The semi-final went well, we were aggressive and were able to follow the Chinese for quite a while,” explained Vicent. “We had a better time than last week but with a slower ice, so we improved there.”

Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) replaced Maltais for the final round. Team Canada was third off the start, but the Japanese team passed them, while China and the US started to create a gap. “We panicked a bit as we saw the gap getting bigger and the Japanese had a good race pattern, making it hard for us to pass them,” said Vicent. They finally managed to pass, and a little later, the American skater fell, allowing Canada to create a good gap with them, which came in handy when Roberge fell in the last lap, as she was able to get up and still cross the finish line ahead of the US, for bronze. China took the gold and Japan the silver.

Earlier during the day, athletes raced the 1000m and François Hamelin achieved the top Canadian result when he won the B Final, for 5th place. Hamelin was first with two laps to go, but Les Ho-Suk of Korea passed him on the inside with 1 ½ lap to go, and Jordan Malone did the same a lap later. “I would have liked to make the final as I did it last week,” said Hamelin. “I had a tough semi-final, and now I have to work on my race pattern at the end, as I open the door for passes, which is what happened today. But I came back strong to win the B Final, I know I have things to improve and I leave here with more experience under my belt.”

Olivier Jean finished third of his quarter final round and could not advance, while Charles Hamelin was disqualified in his quarter final after attempting an outside pass on a Chinese skater. There was a contact, and as Hamelin was the one passing, he was disqualified. They finish 16th and 17th respectively.

Roberge was the lone skater on the women side, as both Vicent and Maltais were eliminated in the qualification rounds on Friday. She also took the third place in her quarter final, a very fast race, for 9th overall.

With Charles Hamelin’s gold and Kalyna Roberge’s bronze medal in the 500m yesterday, this gives Canada four medal this weekend, one less than in China last weekend, where Canada won two bronze medals in the relay, the silver and bronze in the women’s 500m (Gregg and St-Gelais) and another silver in the men’s 1000m (Charles Hamelin).

Team Canada now heads back to Montreal on Monday, with a little over a month to prepare for the next World Cup event that will be held at home at the Maurice-Richard Arena, where most of the team trains. The Montreal World Cup is scheduled for November 5-8 and will be of utmost importance as athlete’s results there will help determine quotas for each country for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.