Canadian Short Trackers Looking Great at Beijing World Cup

Canadian Short Track athletes showed they were in great shape, today, at the third stop of the World Cup Circuit in Beijing, China. All men but one qualified straight to the final rounds to be held Saturday and Sunday, and only two women will have to go through the repechage round on Sunday.

The day started with the 500m races, the distance in which Canada is known to be a power house, especially on the men side. Without a surprise, the Hamelin brothers, Charles and François (Ste-Julie, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) all won both of their races and are heading directly into the quarter finals tomorrow afternoon. It was a similar scenario on the women side, as Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) also won both her races, while teammates Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) and Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) also qualified for Saturday’s quarter finals.

“Today was a good day, my first race always gives me a harder time,” explained Maltais at the end of the day. “But I did quite well today, and for once I should be in a good heat tomorrow and I shouldn’t be fourth on the start line, which should help.”

In the 1500m, the Canadian men were just as dominant: Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC), Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) and rookie Richard Shoebridge (Cambridge, ON) all finished first of their heats and will be in the semi-final races tomorrow. This result is especially encouraging for Shoebridge, who is skating in his first ever World Cup. “The 1500m is not Richard’s specialty,” explained Short Track Program Director Yves Hamelin, “yet he achieved excellent results. He was patient, passed one skater at a time, came out strong on the outside near the end of the race to take the lead and crossed the line first. Tactically, it was a great race for him, very well executed.”

Annik Plamondon (Longueuil, QC), skating in her first World Cup in over a year as she was sidelined last season due to sickness, and Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC), also making a come back after missing the first World Cups of the season because of an injury, were able to qualify for the 1500m semi-finals. Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) was disqualified for impeding when she attempted an inside pass with less than two laps to go.

At each World Cup, one distance is raced twice and in Beijing, it’s Canada’s favorite: the 500m. In the second event, all Canadian men qualified without a surprise, so Jean, Gilday and Shoebridge will be be of the quarter finals on Sunday. It wasn’t as easy for the women, and only Gregg was able to get through, by winning both her races. Lambert and Plamondon will have to get up early Sunday to try and qualify in the repechage.

“I skated well today compared to the first two World Cups,” said Olivier Jean. “I was more confident and my wins were more decisive. I had won all my races on the Fridays of the previous events too, but not this way. I made adjustments based on past mistakes, and I know I’m on the right track. I’m now going for outside passes, that I’m powerful enough to succesfully achieve, these are more safe and I avoid having the referees make tough calls, I stay away from trouble,” finished the athlete who was disqualified in both distances in Vancouver, sometimes with difficult judgement calls from the referees.

In the 1000m, the women were the strongest, and Kalyna Roberge showed she was back to her normal shape by winning both her races. Maltais and Hewitt were also able to qualify for Sunday’s quarter finals. On the men side, Charles Hamelin and François-Louis Tremblay both went on to win their races again, but Hamelin’s young brother François was disqualified for impeding on an inside pass near the end of his race.

Both relay teams – Jean, the Hamelins and Shoebridge for the men; Maltais, Roberge, Lambert and Gregg for the women – won their heats and will be of the semi-finals tomorrow.

“They did a great job on the ice, which felt nice all day despite the number of races,” explained Jean. “It should be even better tomorrow since there are a lot less races.” On top of that, the Canadian team is in great shape this week, and many will be trying to step on the podium tomorrow in the 500m and 1500m. “The support team did a great job in keeping us healthy,” finished Maltais. “No one has been sick so far, and we’re all in a good mood. It wasn’t hard to adapt to the time difference, they kept us busy from the moment we arrived here.”