Hamelin will be in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympic Games

Despite a disappointing day in the 1000m, Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) is now officially qualified to represent Canada in short track speed skating at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Hamelin managed to keep his 3rd position in the overall rankings of the World Championships in Vienna, Austria, to secure his spot on the 2010 team. He then went on to win bronze in the 3000m, and the women’s relay team followed with a bronze medal of their own.

“I didn’t realize right away [that he was pre-qualified for the Olympic Games],” explained Hamelin. “It took me time to believe it, but now I’m relieved not to have to stress over such an important competition, it will give me more time to prepare for the Games, allow me to put all my focus on that.”

The day started with the 1000m races, and no Canadian skater managed to make the final. It was close on the men side, as both Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) were in the semi-finals, but the two athletes finished third of their respective heats, less than 0.1 seconds away from the 2nd position, and only the top-2 qualified for the final. Jean takes 5th place in the distance and Tremblay 6th.

Charles Hamelin was disqualified in his quarter final heat when he tried to pass Sung Si-Bak on the outside. At the end of the pass, they were entering a corner and Sung fell, bringing Hamelin down with him. The Canadian was disqualified when officials felt he caused Sung’s fall. He was relegated to 15th place in the distance, but a victory in the 500m yesterday proved enough for him to keep his 3rd overall position, and his ticket for the Olympics. The winner of the distance was Korean Lee Ho-Suk, with Apolo Anton Ohno of the US taking silver, and teammate J.R. Celski the bronze.

On the women side, Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB), coming off a bronze medal performance in yesterday’s 500m, was the lone Canadian athlete in semi-final. The 500m specialist gave everything she had, but had to settle for 4th place of her heat, placing her a very respectable 8th in the distance.

Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) was disqualified in quarter final when an athlete fell after Roberge just passed her, and ends up 15th, while Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was eliminated in the heats for 21st place. Chinese Wang Meng was the gold medal winner, followed by Koreans Kim Min-Jung and Shin Sae-Bom.

All athletes who made finals throughout the weekend then skated in the 3000m Super final. All of Canada’s men were on the ice in a very eventful final, in which American J.R. Celski, Korean Lee Ho-Suk and Hamelin were exchanging the lead every few laps and managed to lap the rest of the skaters. Celski was first to cross the finish line in 4:48.444, followed by Lee in 4:50.114 and Hamelin (4:50.833). Tremblay, a sprinter, managed to finish 6th (4:59.723) and Jean 7th (5:01.258).

“I was angry after the 1000m, my goal was to make the final, I knew I had the strenght for it,” said Charles Hamelin afterwards. “But I came back in my bubble for the 3000m, I knew I still had chances to climb up in the rankings. I had a plan, I followed it well. The final result is perfectly fine by me, I think despite all the bad luck I had this weekend I still did pretty good!”

Only Gregg was on the track for Canada in the women’s 3000m Super final, and she finished 6th. Chinese Zhou Yang took the gold, followed by Koreans Kim Min-Jung and Shin Sae-Bom. The 3000m is only raced at the World Championships, it is not a World Cup or Olympic distance anymore.

The overall 2009 World Champion is Korean Lee Ho-Suk, with junior US athlete J.R. Celski in second, and Hamelin third. Jean concludes the competition in 6th place overall, Tremblay just behind in 7th.

On the women side, Wang Meng successfully defended her World Champion title. Korean skater Kim Min-Jung was second and Chinese Zhou Yang third. The best Canadian was Jessica Gregg in 6th place overall, followed by Kalyna Roberge in 10th place and Valérie Maltais 13th.

The last events of the weekend were the relay finals, and Canada’s team (Gregg, Maltais, Roberge and Jessica Hewitt) took the bronze in 4:12.506 behind China (4:10.531) and Korea (4:11.837).

“I’m really disappointed overall, there were a lot of things not under my control, I wasn’t necessarily faulty all the time,” explained Kalyna Roberge at the end of the day. “Today in the 1000m you can see clearly in the video replay that I didn’t touch the girl. At least I’m happy we managed to finish ahead of the Americans in the relay, they were strong, I think they expected to beat us.”

Canada concludes the World Championships in Vienna with 5 medals – 1 gold and 4 bronze, a satisfying result in this pre-olympic season. “It was a good weekend overall, with good and bad times,” concluded Yves Hamelin, Short Track Program Director. “We had some bad luck, too many disqualifications, some justified, some not.” The team now makes its way to The Netherlands, where they will skate for the World Team Championships Title next weekend in Heerenveen.

Back in Canada, St-Gelais and Rasmussen win 500m

Back in Montreal, at the National Team Selection #2, Marianne St-Gelais showed that she was fully back after suffering a concussion at the World Junior Championships about two months ago when she took gold in the 500m competition. She won in 44.49, followed by veteran skaters Tania Vicent (44.65) and Marie-Ève Drolet (44.72). Valérie Lambert was 4th in 45.20.

Cory Rassmussen won the gold medal on the men side in 41.43, closely followed by Liam McFarlane in 41.49. Richard Shoebridge was the bronze medalist (41.83) and Steve Robillard finished 4th (41.96). Athletes are competing in the 1000m today. Their points from this event will be combined with those won at the Canadian Championships and will help determine which skaters will be on Canada’s National and Development teams next season, along with who will be able to skate at the Olympic Selection event in August.