Kalyna Roberge & Marc-André Monette Crowned Canadian Champions in the 1500m

Montréal, January 18, 2008 – Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) and Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) took the first gold medals of the Canadian Open Championships in Montreal. With those wins, the two skaters are now first in the overall ranking of the two National Team selections. This ranking, at the end of the competition, will determine who will represent Canada for the last two World Cup stops as well as at the World Championships this winter.

Roberge won all of her heats in the women competition, and finished beautifully in the final (2:22.70), crossing the line almost a second before her closest opponent, Tania Vicent (Laval, QC), who finished in 2:23.51. Amanda Overland and Nita Avrith, both from Montreal, were just behind Vicent.

“I’m very happy with the result”, said Roberge after her win. “Ever since we came back from the last World Cups, I’ve been trying new things, like using different muscles, and it worked really well.”

Even if she was starting off the weekend as favorite, having won all of her races on all distances in the National Team selections she skated in since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, Roberge was quite nervous coming into the competition. “I never under-estimate anybody,” she explained. “I didn’t want to take the easy road either, I want to try and use strategies that will come in handy in World Cups later, that’s why I stayed fourth for many turns in the final before trying the outside pass on all the skaters in front of me.”

On the men side, the final was a lot more eventful. The skaters taking part were the Hamelin brothers, Charles and François (Ste-Julie, QC), the Monette brothers, Marc-André and Jean-François, as well as Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, TNO) and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC).

Many passes happened during the race, but Charles Hamelin was in the lead for the most part of it, until Marc-André Monette tried to pass him coming out of the last turn and managed to catch up to him. Hamelin was disqualified for cross tracking at the finish line. Gilday and François Hamelin finished second and third.

“My goal for the weekend is to finish in the top two, in order to be sure to skate individual distances at the World Championships,” explained Marc-André Monette. “For the 1500m, I wanted to manage my race with Charles in front of me, in order to be able to try and pass him at the finish, which is exactly what happened so I’m quite satisfied since my strategy worked. I’ve been seeing an improvement on my part every day in training for the last two weeks, so I knew I had a chance.” And about the finish of the race, the new Canadian champion in the distance had a side note: “It’s not fun when it ends this way, it happened to me at the first selection in Calgary and it’s never fun for anyone.”

The Canadian Open Championship is the selection for teams that will represent Canada in the last two World Cups of the circuit (the next one will be held in Québec City from February 1-3), as well as at the World Championships in March.

The final ranking of the competition will be combined with the one from the first National Team selection that was held in Calgary last September, with a weight of 2/3 for the Canadian Championship and 1/3 for the first selection, and the top five overall will be invited to the last World Cups and the World Championships. A sixth participant for the World Cups will be selected by Speed Skating Canada’s High Performance Committee.