Mendes-Campeau & Blais-Dufour Become National Junior Champions

Ottawa, ON – Québec skaters dominated again at the short track National Junior Championships today, where Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) and Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) were crowned champions following nearly flawless performances.

In the women competition, Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) started the competition in first, closely followed by Mendes-Campeau. But a win in the 1000m and a third place in the Super 1500m final gave Mendes-Campeau the win, while St-Gelais, who finished 3rd in the 1000m and 4th in the Super 1500m had to settle for second. “I was stressed out at the beginning of the competition Saturday,” said Mendes-Campeau. “But today, I knew I just had to stay strong and I felt a little bit more confident. The 1000m is my best distance, so I really wanted to win.” Mendes-Campeau skated well in the final, taking the lead early in the race and keeping her short lead until the finish line. Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was 2nd in the final, followed by St-Gelais in 3rd.

“After that win in the 1000m, all I had to do was to skate the 1500m properly and I knew I would qualify for the World Juniors, so I really concentrated on that,” she explained. Matlais won that race, for 3rd overall in the competition, and Laurie Marceau took the silver in the Super 1500m, for 4th place overall.

Mendes-Campeau and St-Gelais will join Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) on the women’s team that will represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in Bolzano, Italy, on January 11-13. It will be a first World Junior Championships for both Mendes-Campeau and St-Gelais. Lambert participated last year, winning bronze in the relay and finishing 8th in the 500m and 9th in the 1000m, for 10th overall.

On the men’s side, Maxime Fortin (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) first won his second distance of the weekend, the 1000m (he won the 500m yesterday), followed by Vincent Cournoyer (Boucherville, QC), Guillaume Blais-Dufour and Antoine Gélinas (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC). It was a very close race, Fortin leading the pack from the start. Everyone tried to gain positions at the finish, and all four skaters crossed the line within 0.14 seconds of each other.

With the 1-2-3 finish, Blais-Dufour, Fortin and Cournoyer were sure to be the three members of the Canadian squad for the World Junior Championships, so the Super 1500m final was more of a race for 4th place than anything. It started slow, and Blais-Dufour tried to create a gap after two laps, which gave him the advantage he needed to win the race, his second win in the 1500m this weekend. Gabriel Chiasson-Poirier finished 2nd and Antoine Gélinas 3rd.

“I’m very satisfied with my results this weekend,” said Blais-Dufour. “I didn’t have any problems, and the top 3 seeded guys qualified for the World Juniors so we can say that all went as planned.” The team will now have a few more weeks of training before they head to Italy in early January for the World Junior Championships. “At the World Juniors, I’m hoping to use the international experience I gained last year at the University Games, and I’m hoping for a top-5, but most importantly, I want to get more international experience looking forward to the World Junior Championships that will be held in Sherbrooke, QC, in 2009,” finished Blais-Dufour.