François-Olivier Roberge & Shannon Rempel crack top-five at speed skating World Cup

François-Olivier Roberge of St- Nicholas, Que., posted the best international result of his career on Saturday placing fourth in the men’s 1,000 metres at a long track speed skating World Cup competition.

Kyou-Hyuk Lee of South Korea won the gold medal clocking one minute and 09.39 seconds with Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands second in 1:09.66 and his compatriot Beorn Nijenhuis third in 1:09.98.

Roberge, a 21-year-old Olympian, continued to display an impressive early-season form taking fourth spot in 1:10.04. Brock Miron of Calgary was 12th and Mike Ireland of Winnipeg 16th.

"I’ve been improving at each World Cup this year and it continued," said Roberge, who has posted top-10 performances in all four 1,000-metre World Cup races this season. "I felt like today I skated to my full potential. My turns in particular were very strong and in the straightaways I was really able to let myself go."

Lee leads the World Cup 1,000 standings with 350 points followed by Wennemars at 310 and Shani Davis of the U.S., at 220. Roberge is seventh at 160.

On Saturday, Roberge was paired with Wennemars, the Olympic bronze medallist.

"I thought he was a really good pair for me," said Roberge. "The race went exactly as I had visualized. I was really motivated to skate against him, it was a good measuring stick for me."

In the B Group race, Vincent Labrie of St-Romuald, Que., was fifth.

In the women’s 1,000, Chiara Simionato of Italy was the winner in 1:16.99 with Olympic champion Marianne Timmer of the Netherlands second in 1:17.63 and Beixing Wang of China third in 1:17.64. Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg took fifth spot, her best result this season, in 1:17.93.

"Shannon skated really well but she can do better," said Rempel’s coach Xiuli Wang. "She will be even better tomorrow (on Sunday). She’s ready to race."

Kim Weger of Regina was 20th, Clara Hughes of Winnipeg 21st and Krisy Myers of Lloydminster, Sask., 23rd.

In the women’s 500: Rempel was 13th, Weger 18th, Myers 23rd and Hughes 27th.

Hughes, the Olympic champion in the 5,000 metres, is racing the sprint events here and next weekend in Nagano in order to improve her technique at faster speeds. She’ll return to the distance events later this season.

In the men’s 500: Ireland was 15th while in the B Group Roberge was sixth, Labrie eighth and Miron 20th.

Competition ends Sunday.