Three More Medals for Canada to Conclude World Short Track Championships

Canada added three medals to its tally, today at the World Short Track Championships, to conclude the event with five medals – 1 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze. Today’s medals came courtesy of Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) who won silver in the 1000m, the men’s relay team (gold) and women’s relay team (bronze). Hamelin concludes the competition in second position overall for the second time in his career.

The two Hamelin brothers, Charles and François, were in the 1000m final today, and they were going to do everything to avoid a repeat of the Vancouver Olympic final, where they both finished off the podium.

The men's 1000m and overall podium; Photo: Yves Hamelin
This time around, they were facing Korean Noh Jinkyu and Chinese Liang Wenhao. Charles Hamelin took the lead in the first lap, closely followed by Liang and his younger brother. With six laps to go, François made his way to first place with an outside pass. Charles claimed the lead again with three laps to go, and in the last lap, Noh was able to pass him to claim the gold medal in 1:28.552. Charles Hamelin was able to hang on to his second place, for the silver medal, in 1:28.663. Liang passed François Hamelin in the last few laps and was able to take the bronze in 1:29.203, while the younger Hamelin has to settle for fourth (1:29.459).

Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) was eliminated in semi-final, for 7th place in the distance.

On to the 3000m final, all three Canadian skaters were on the start line, alongside three Chinese skaters, two Americans and Noh Jinkyu of Korea. As usual, there were a lot of moves in this very strategic race. With 12 laps to go, Noh took the lead, closely followed by Charles Hamelin. Jean was fifth and François Hamelin 6th. No one moved for the next eight laps, but Noh was accelerating the pace at each lap. In the end, Noh showed his fitness by sprinting ahead of the pack, claiming gold and the title of World Champion in 4:51.638. With two laps to go, Liang made his way to second place, and Jeff Simon of the US was able to pass Charles Hamelin in the last lap. Liang and Simon respectively won silver and bronze in 4:51.877 and 4:52.181. Hamelin is just behind in fourth (4:52.406). François Hamelin and Olivier Jean respectively finished sixth and seventh in 4:54.485 and 4:55.198.

In the overall rankings, Charles Hamelin concludes the 2011 World Short Track Championships in second place behind Noh, tying his best career result at the event achieved in 2007. Liang Wenhao of China concludes the competition in third place. Olivier Jean finishes 6th overall, thanks to yesterday’s silver medal in the 500m, and François Hamelin is 8th overall.

“It was a great weekend for me, I felt good and I’m really satisfied with the races I did,” said Charles Hamelin. “Except for a small mistake in the 500m, I had a really good competition. My legs were strong, and my racing tactics worked out great. Noh of Korea was the strongest throughout the Championships, and he fully deserves the title of World Champion.”

In women competition, it was a different story. Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) was the strongest Canadian in the 1000m, but she was eliminated in semi-final. After her skate hit the ice at the beginning of the race, she was able to catch up and take the lead, but a contact with a Chinese skater mid-race relegated her to last place and she simply couldn’t come back after that. St-Gelais ends up 8th overall in the distance. Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) and Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) were both eliminated in quarter finals, for 12th and 14th positions overall.

The race was won by Korean Cho Ha-Ri in 1:38.895, while Italian Arianna Fontana claimed silver in 1:40.306. American Katherine Reutter had to settle for bronze after a fall. No Canadian was in the Super 3000m final, in which Cho was once again victorious in 5:13.353. Reutter won silver (5:13.677) and Liu Qiuhong of China won bronze (5:17.206).

With today’s two gold medal, Cho Ha-Ri claimed the World Champion title. Reutter finishes second overall and Fontana third. Drolet, St-Gelais and Hewitt concludes this year’s World Short Track Championships in 9th, 10th and 11th place respectively.

Off to the relay finals. St-Gelais, Drolet, Hewitt and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC)

Canada's women's relay team, winner of the bronze medal; Photo: Yves Hamelin
teamed up to face teams from China, Korea and the Netherlands. The Canadian were in the lead for the first three quarters of the race, but China went to the front with eight laps to go and never looked back, crossing the finish in 4:16.295, good for the title of World Champions. Canada thought they would be able to cling to the silver medal, but the Dutch team passed in the last lap to steal it away, crossing the finish line in 4:17.725. Canada wins bronze in 4:18.043, and the Koreans, who fell with just four laps to go, end up fourth.

“We had a good race,” analyzed Marianne St-Gelais afterwards. “Our strategy was to start in front with a good rhythm, because the ice isn’t really good and it doesn’t allow to quickly gather speed for passes. That’s what we did, but the Chinese came back strong in the end after resting in second place for the first part of the race, and the Dutch surprised us in the last lap, we didn’t think they were that close to us.”

Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT), the Hamelin brothers and Jean were hoping to add to their World Cup Championship title by winning the World Championships today, and they did just that. The Canadians took the lead after seven laps. The Americans managed to pass halfway through the race, but Jean, who was then racing for Canada, went back to the front right away. When the Americans tried to pass the Koreans with 15 laps left in the race, both teams went down. From that point on, the Canadians just held on to their lead and finished the race strongly in 6:52.731 for the gold medal. The Germans claimed the silver medal in 6:54.693 and the Americans won bronze (7:01.659) while the Koreans were penalized.

Canada’s skaters now have the triple crown: Olympic Champions, World Champions and World Cup Champions.

“We were on the podium for all relays this year at World Cups, we won three races out of six there, so we knew we were strong,” explained Michael Gilday. “But we really wanted to end the season with the World Championships title, and we did it. It’s amazing, I’m really excited about it. All other guys on the team won the Olympics last year except for me, and to know we are now World Champions, it’s just perfect!”

This puts an end to the 2011 World Short Track Championships. The athletes are now heading to Warsaw, Poland, where they will conclude their international season next weekend with the World Team Championships.