Canadian Short Trackers Shine on First Day of Nagano World Cup

The word consistent is a good one to describe Canadian short track speed skaters, as they successfully made their way through the first day of competition at the 4th stop of the ISU World Cup Short Track, in Nagano. Fridays are always long days at Short Track World Cup events, with all athletes skating many rounds hoping to qualify for the final rounds on the weekend.

The first event was the 1500m, a distance often dominated by Asian skaters, and one of the toughest for the Canadian squad. Annik Plamondon (Longueuil, QC) and Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) were still both able to qualify for the semi-final tomorrow. Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) however finished 4th of her race and will have to try and qualify by winning the repechage tomorrow morning.

On the men side, only two skaters were on the track representing Canada. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) is not skating this weekend, suffering from lumbar pain. “Michael had pain last week, but we were able to control it,” explained Short Track Program Director Yves Hamelin. “But this week it was getting worse, and we had to make this decision to avoid Michael hurting himself more.”

François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC), coming off a strong showing last week with a silver in the 500m and 4th place in the 1000m, had the 2nd best time in the 1500m and will be of the semi-final. Team-mate François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) will not be able to skate Saturday as he was disqualified when he tried a pass between two skaters and impeded on one of them.

“It was my first 1500m in competition since the Team Selections in September, so I’m quite happy with what I did, it was a good race for me,” said Tremblay after the fact.

In the 1000m, two of the three women were able to qualify. Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) and Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) had very strong races, while Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) was disqualified for impeding and will have to focus on her other event this weekend.

“It went well today, my first 1000m was a little hard, but it was the top two skaters of each heat plus the best 8th thirds that were qualifying for the next round, so I knew if I went fast I would have a good chance,” explained Hewitt. “I started out front and led most of the race, we had a fast heat, but I finished 2nd anyway so I qualified. It was similar for the next round, I had a good starting position, used the same strategy and finished 2nd again.”

On the men side, all Canadian skaters finished in the top 2 of both their races, so Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), bronze medallist in the distance last week, Richard Shoebridge (Cambridge, ON) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) are all skating in the quarter final tomorrow.

In Canada’s favourite distance, the 500m, Canadian men were consistent and Tremblay, François Hamelin and Shoebridge had no trouble qualifying. It was done in great fashion for Tremblay, who posted the fastest time of the day: 41.255, just 0,2 seconds slower than the world record.

“I had an amazing race in the 500m,” said Tremblay who easily won both of his races. “My time was close to the world record despite the fact that the ice isn’t really good here, so that’s exciting.”

Jessica Gregg, a specialist in the distance, also won both her races, and she will be joined in the quarter finals by Valérie Lambert. Anne Maltais finished a close 3rd in her first race, and will have to qualify through the repechage.

In the last distance of the day, another 1500m, Hewitt, Roberge and Plamondon were all second of their race which was enough to allow them to sleep in on Sunday and skate in the semi-finals. The two men racing this distance, Olivier Jean and Charles Hamelin, won their races and will also be of the semi-finals.

The two relay teams – Hewitt, Roberge, Maltais and Plamondon for the women; Jean, Tremblay, Shoebridge and Charles Hamelin for the men – won their respective races without surprise and will be in the semi-final tomorrow.

Saturday, Valérie Lambert will be the first in action, hoping to qualify for the afternoon races in the 1500m. The rest of her team-mates will be at the rink at lunch time for the final rounds in the 1000m and 1500m as well as the relay semi-finals.