Six Podiums for Canada at Short Track World Cup in Vancouver

Canadian athletes were very strong on the last day of the Short Track World Cup event being held at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, winning six more medals, making it eight for the young team over the weekend.

The first medal of the day came in the women’s 500m race, with junior skater

Marianne St-Gelais celebrates her silver medal in the 500m; Photo: Jeff Bough
Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) making her way to silver, second to none other than Chinese Wang Meng. St-Gelais skated extremely well in all her races. In both her quarter and semi-final she had very fast starts and led from start to finish. In the final, she started right behind Wang and kept her 2nd place until the finish line, for her first ever World Cup medal.

“I’m surprised, very excited and extremely proud,” smiled the 18 year old after getting her medal. “It shows that I’m now part of the game, that I can not only qualify to make World Cups, but I can be in the finals and win a medal!”

The other Canadian women in the distance, Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Anne Maltais (Québec, QC), were eliminated in quarter finals for 9th and 11th place overall.

François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) followed suit, achieving another silver medal performance in the 500m, his favourite distance. Tremblay started out first, but American skater Jeff Simon passed him on the inside with three laps to go, and Korean Lee Ho-Suk followed. The Canadian was able to get back one spot in the last lap, finishing second to Lee for his second podium in as many 500m races this season.

François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), bronze medallist in the 1000m yesterday, finished third behind two Korean skaters in his semi-final, and went on to the third place in the B final for a 7th position overall. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) was disqualified in the quarter finals and finished 16th.

Next up was the men’s 1000m final, in which Canada’s Hamelin brothers won gold and bronze yesterday. Two other Canadians were able to find their way to the podium today, for their first ever individual medals in a World Cup event. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) and Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) had amazing races in quarter and semi finals to qualify for the big final.

Gilday started in third, Beaulieu just behind in this four men final. With two laps to go, Gilday passed American Apolo Anton Ohno on the inside, and Beaulieu did the same moments later. The skaters went on to cross the finish line in that order, with Lee Jung-Su of Korea taking the gold.

“I’m so excited right now, I’m really happy,” said Gilday right off the podium. “It’s awesome to do this in the Olympic venue, it shows that we are comfortable here. It’s even more special to win my first World Cup medal here in Vancouver. Seeing so many Canadians on the podium this weekend, all different, shows that we are on the right track for 2010!” Beaulieu added “I feel absolutely great right now, I’ve been skating really well both last week and this one. I was ready for it!”

In the women’s 1000m event, Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was the lone Canadian skating this afternoon, and she finished 3rd of her quarter final heat, for 10th place overall. Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) was eliminated earlier in the repechage rounds, for 23rd position.

The women's relay team in action - with 5 countries in the final, what a race! Photo: Jeff Bough
The day ended with both relay finals, in which Canada won two more medals. The women were up first, and the team made of Mends-Campeau, Valérie Maltais, Gregg and Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) started in second place behind Korea. The Chinese team passed Canada with just about 15 laps to go, and positions didn’t change from then on, with Canada a close third crossing the finish line.

Canada’s men team of Charles and François Hamelin, Beaulieu and Tremblay had big hopes with Korea out of the picture, having been eliminated on Friday. It was a very close race between Canada and the US from start to finish, teams exchanging positions every so often, and Canada crossed the finish line 0,077 seconds after the US, for the silver medal.

“With Korea not in the race, our plan was to go out first and accelerate to lead the race,” explained veteran skater Tremblay. “We could have done better in a few of our exchanges, which would have likely made the difference.”

It was a great weekend for Canadian skaters, with 8 medals but, most importantly, the chance to get even more familiar with the Pacific Coliseum which will be their home for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Michael Gilday and Rémi Beaulieu on the podium of the 1000m; Photo: Jeff Bough
“It’s a lot of little things together that made it happen for us this weekend,” concluded Beaulieu. “The great food we have at the hotel, the fact that we’ve been here twice before, that we know the area, the ice, the facility, it makes it better for us.”

The team now heads back to Montreal and Calgary tomorrow for training, and will be back in World Cup action as of November 28th in Beijing, China, and the following week in Nagano, Japan.