Canadians Hard at Work at Montreal Short Track World Cup

Canadian Skaters reached their objective on Day 1 of the Montreal ISU Short Track World Cup, today, at the Maurice-Richard Arena. All skaters were able to position themselves within the top-36 in the 1500m and top-32 in the 500m, giving good chances for Canada to obtain full quotas in these distances for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

It was a very long day, probably the longest ever in World Cup action, because of the 225 skaters representing 35 countries who are in Montreal this week vying for Olympic spots. The day started with 1500m action, and all Canadian skaters made their way easily through the first rounds. In quarter final, Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) was first on the ice, in one of the toughest heats of the day. Vicent was in the back with seven laps to go, and kept trying to position herself better, but the Sweden skater just in front kept a good trajectory, refraining Vicent to pass for a few laps. With a little over 4 laps to go, the Canadian was able to make her way to 5th place, but the pace was too fast by then, and the front skaters had created a small gap that Vicent was never able to fill.

“I was blocked by the Swedish girl a bit, I tried to pass twice, but it wasn’t working, and meanwhile, the girls in the front started to create a gap. I just didn’t have enough time to catch up,” explained Vicent, who finished fifth of her quarter final race, which gives her 25th place overall in the distance, well within the top-36 needed to qualify for the Olympic quota.

Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne de Lauzon, QC) finished third of her quarter final race, just behind Chinese Zhou Yang and Japanese Hiroko Sadakane, while Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) took second place of her quarter final, behind Korean Kim Min-Jung, so both athletes will be of Saturday’s semi-finals in the distance.

On the men side, Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) had three strong races in the 1500m, winning his quarter final and ensuring he would be of the semi-finals Saturday. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) did the same, winning his first two races and finishing second to Korean Sung Si-Bak in quarter final.

Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was facing a tough heat in quarter final. Athletes kept trading for the lead, giving the race a very fast pace. Korean skater Lee Jung-Su created a gap with the rest of the athletes, and it was a tight race to the finish behind, Bastille finishing fourth just 0.022 seconds behind third place. He will not be racing on Saturday, but he takes 17th place in the distance.

In the 500m, Canadian men were never threatened. Hamelin, Jean and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) flew through each of their three qualification rounds, winning every single one of them. Tremblay and Hamelin actually posted the two fastest times of the day (42.153 and 42.199) while Jean posted the 5th best time

Charles Hamelin in the 500m in Montréal; Photo: Simon Pichette
(42.718). All three skaters will be racing again Saturday in the heats.

“I felt good today, things went well for me and I look forward to tomorrow,” explained a tired Charles Hamelin after his sixth and final race. “In the 500m, we showed that the Canadians are really strong right now. The important thing in such a long day is to manage your energy well, to focus on the important things, sit down as much as you can in between races. This is the longest day I’ve ever had to race.”

All Canadian women also managed to qualify for Saturday’s heats. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) won both her races. With her fast start, she positioned herself in front right away and never looked back. Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) won her first round, and went on to finish second to Korean Lee Eun-Byul in her second race, securing her place for Saturday. Kalyna Roberge already had 1500m races under her belt, but managed to be second of her first race, just behind American Katherine Reutter and went on to win her last race of the day, to end on a high note.

“It’s a good start to the competition,” said Roberge. “I always look for perfection, so it’s hard to be completely satisfied with what I did, but it was a good day, I did what I had to do.”

Tomorrow will be another long day for the athletes, as the first 1000m qualifications will take place at 9:45am. Roberge, Vicent, St-Gelais, Jean, Hamelin and François Hamelin will represent Canada in the distance. The first rounds of the relay will conclude the day around 7pm.