Canadian rookies continue to impress on short track speed skating World Cup circuit

Canadians are on the medal prowl once again after a particularly strong performance by the younger team members in Friday’s qualification rounds to open the second stop on the short track speed skating World Cup circuit.

Last week at the World Cup opener in China, the Canadian team took home seven medals.

On the women’s side, all the Canadians advanced to the quarterfinals in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500-metres qualifying.

Advancing in the 500 were Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal, Kalyna Roberge of Ste-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que., and Anne Maltais of Quebec City. In the 1,000, Leblanc-Boucher, Roberge, Maltais, Amanda Overland of Kitchener, Ont., Raphaele Lemieux of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., and Nita Avrith of Montreal all advanced. In the 1,500, Roberge, Leblanc-Boucher and Avrith all moved on.

Avrith is in her first season on the national team while Lemieux and Maltais have limited international experience.

"It was obvious that the girls learned a lot from last week’s racing," said national team coach Martin Gagné. "They knew their opponents better, they were vigilant and were less hesitant to pass an opponent. They’re gaining a lot of confidence."

In men’s competition, Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., and François-Louis Tremblay of Montreal advanced in the 500. Tremblay and Jean were 1-2 in last week’s 500 final.

In the 1,000 Steve Robillard of Montreal, Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., and Marc-André Monette of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., moved to the quarterfinals while Mathieu Giroux of Montreal is headed to a repechage. In the 1,500 Giroux, Monette and Robillard advanced.

Monette, Giroux and Jean are in their first season on the World Cup circuit.

"The young guys are showing they are ready for this level," said national team coach Derrick Campbell. "It’s a not a surprise. Just to make the Canadian team you’re already skating at a high level and learning racing skills. But there’s still a transition at the international level and they’ve stayed relaxed and controlled their races."

In the men’s relay quarterfinals, Canada placed second in its heat to move to the semis. Racing for Canada were Hamelin, Giroux, Monette and Robillard. The women’s relay starts Saturday.

Saturday’s schedule also includes the 1,000 and 1,500 finals.