Canadian team nominated as Bell Short Track Speed Skating Olympic Trials conclude

Canada’s 10-member team in short track speed skating for the 2006 Winter Olympics which includes six medallists from the 2002 Games, was nominated Sunday night as the Bell Short Track Speed Skating Olympic Trials concluded.

The men’s team nominated is comprised of François-Louis Tremblay of Montreal, Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., Eric Bedard of Ste-Thecle, Que., Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., and Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal, who took positions 1-5 in the overall standings. Hamelin is the only one of the five not from the 2002 squad.

‘’The key to success at these trials was to be consistent,’’ said Tremblay, who placed first overall at the nine-race trials which started September 1 and also took first spot in the 1,000-metre standings. ‘’I really built a strong lead in the first six races and the pressure fell off a bit for me. But I was glad with how I came back tonight to assure that I stayed first.’’

Bedard topped the 500 standings this week and Turcotte took the 1,500. The top finishers at each distance earned automatic nominations regardless of the overall standings. Each individual Olympic distance (500, 1000 and 1500) was contested three times at trials to make up the nine races.

The women’s team nominees are Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., Amanda Overland of Kitchener, Ont., Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal, Tania Vicent of Montreal and Kalyna Roberge of Ste-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que., the top five finishers overall respectively. Vicent and Kraus were on the 2002 team.

‘’This is the team that I predicted would make it through,’’ said Vicent, a two-time Olympian, who topped the 1,000 standings. ‘’We have some youngsters but they were on the world team last year so they have a lot of experience already. I think the strength of the women’s team is its depth.’’

Kraus was first in the 500 standings as well and Overland first in the 1,500.

In Sunday’s final races, Bedard won the 1,000 metres in 1:26.833 with Turcotte second in 1:26.898 and Marc-Andre Monette of Montreal third in 1:26.961.

Kraus took the women’s 1,000 in 1:32.476 with Overland second in 1:32.591 and Leblanc-Boucher third in 1:32.665.

While the team is set, Canada must still qualify for the Olympic Games as a country. The 10 member-team now prepares for the World Cup circuit which gets underway later this month in China. The third and fourth World Cups in Europe next month are the Olympic qualifier to determine the eight countries that compete at the Games. Also at those Word Cups, Canada will finalise who races the individual events.

The short track team won the most medals for Canada at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City with six trips to the podium.

(Photo: Annie Dubé)