Speed Skating Canada names World Cups & World Championships Teams

Following the Canadian Open Championship held last weekend in Montreal, Speed Skating Canada (SSC) names today the teams that will represent Canada at the World Short Track Championships, at the last two stops of the World Cup Circuit and at the 2009 Universiade of the International University Sport Federation (FISU).

In order to qualify, athletes had to earn a maximum of points at the Fall World Cup Selection that was held in Vancouver last September, as well as at the Canadian Open Championship. SSC’s High Performance Short Track Committee then met to finalize the teams.

“We are confident that athletes who have been selected to represent Canada this winter are ready for the next steps on the international stage”, explained Yves Hamelin, Short Track Program Director with SSC. “The calendar allows us once more to offer a maximum of international experience to our athletes in this pre-Olympic year, so that they are as prepared as possible in the lead up to the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.”

Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC), who are first and second in the overall ranking for the two selection meets, will be skating individual distances at the World Short Track Championship to be held in Vienna, Austria, on March 6-8. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC), Canadian champion for the last three years, will join them. After missing the first selection because of an injury, she showed last weekend that she was on top of her form by winning the title in the 500m and 1000m and finishing 6th in the 1500m.

Teammates Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) and Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) will also be there to skate in the relay and at the World Team Championship in Heerenveen, The Netherlands, the following weekend. It will be the first time that Valérie Maltais and Hewitt skate at the World Championships, and the first time that Jessica Gregg will skate individual distances at the event.

On the men side, competition was very tight, but the top three in the overall rankings of the two selections, Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) will skate the individual distances, and they will be helped by François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) for the rest of the competitions.

SSC chose to send different athletes for World Cups 5 and 6 in order to give experience to a maximum of skaters in the lead up to the Vancouver Olympics fastly approaching. On the men side, the Hamelin brothers, Jean, Tremblay, Monette and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) will be at the World Cup #5 in Sofia, Bulgaria, on February 6-8. Only François Hamelin, Monette and Bastille will then go to Dresden, Germany, for the last stop of the World Cup circuit, and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT), Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix (Sherbrooke, QC) will join them there.

On the women side, Gregg, Anne Maltais, Hewitt and Roberge will skate at the World Cup #5, as will Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau, QC) and Marie-Ève Drolet (Saguenay, QC) who was making a come back to competition last weekend, after retiring in 2003. Gregg and Roberge will come back to Canada after the event, and young Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), recently crowned World Junior Champion in the 500m but unable to skate at the Canadian Open Championship because of a concussion, as well as Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montreal, QC) will take their place for Heerenveen.

As is the case every second year, the FISU will present the 2009 Winter Universiade this year. The event will take place in Harbin, China, on February 19-23, and Canada will be sending a team. Bastille and Boisvert-Lacroix will be there, along with Richard Shoebridge (Cambridge, ON), Tyler Derraugh (Winnipeg, MB) and Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB).

Teammates Mendes-Campeau, St-Gelais, Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC), Nita Avrith (Montreal, QC) and Annik Plamondon (Longueuil, QC) will also be in Harbin for the event.