Charles Hamelin top Canadian in World Cup short track speed skating season opener

Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., was sixth in the men’s 1,500-metre final Friday for Canada’s best result in the first day of racing at the season opening World Cup short track speed skating competition.

Olympic champion Apolo Anton Ohno of the U.S., took the gold in two minutes and 20.146 seconds, Hyun-Soo Ahn of South Korea was second in 2:20.254 and Ye Li of China third in 2:20.404. Hamelin was sixth in 2:20.595.

Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal and Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., were eliminated in the semifinals and placed eighth and 17th overall respectively.

‘’It was a pretty fast race with a lot of passing,’ said Hamelin, a three-time World Cup winner last season. ‘’I did very well but I lot my concentration at the end and I got myself boxed in. I knew my form wouldn’t respond to what I wanted to do but I battled hard.’’

Canada is icing its 12-member Olympic team for the Winter Games this February in Italy for the World Cup events. The team was selected at trials earlier this month in Saguenay, Que. The skaters enjoyed a break after the trials but are now in the midst of some heavy training which made racing on Friday arduous.

In the women’s 1, 500 final, Meng Wang of China was the winner in 2:23.375, Sun-Yu Jin of South Korea second in 2:23.440 and her compatriot Chun-Sa Byun third in 2:24.027.

Amanda Overland of Kitchener, Ont., and Tania Vicent of Vercheres, Que., were eliminated in the semifinals for seventh and 14th respectively and Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal was ousted in the opening heats for 23rd.

‘’I was very pleased,’’ said Overland, the Canadian overall champion, third in her semifinal heat. ‘’My legs felt very heavy and the adrenaline really kicked in. I skated a smart race in my semi and kept a good position.’’

Canada also won its men’s and women’s relay heats to advance to the semifinals. In the men’s 5,000 relay, the Canadians won in 6:53.952 with Guilmette, Turcotte, François-Louis Tremblay of Montreal and Eric Bedard of Ste-Thecle, Que.

In the women’s 3,000 relay, the Canadians were first in their heat in 4:23.627 with Overland, Leblanc-Boucher, Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, Que., and Kalyna Roberge of Ste-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que.

The third and fourth World Cups in Europe this November are the Olympic qualifiers to determine the eight countries that compete at the Games. Also at those Word Cups, Canada will finalise who races the individual events.

‘’We knew we won’t be racing at full capacity for these first two World Cups but it’s a sacrifice we have to make to be in top condition for the European World Cups,’’ said Canadian national team coach Guy Thibault of Le Gardeur, Que. ‘’Our goals this week are to get some quality training and also scout the other competitors.’’

Competition continues Saturday with the men’s and women’s 500-metre races and the relay semfinals.