Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu takes bronze in the 1500m at World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championship

It’s in his hometown of Sherbrooke that Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu won the first international medal of his carreer, today : bronze in the 1500m at the World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championship. Gélinas-Beaulieu was the only non-Korean athlete to step on the podium today.

The youngest athlete of the Canadian Team (he will be 17 in May) was not the only Canadian in a final, however. On the men side, he was joined by teammate Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC), who took 4th place, while Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) skated in the women’s final to take 4th and 6th place respectively.

“My goal was to be in the semi-final, so I’m really happy to be on the podium!” jubilated Gélinas-Beaulieu at the end of the day. “It wasn’t an easy race, but I managed my race as I had to and it worked well. I didn’t have a lot of time to rest after my semi-final, I was a little bit more tired.”

And he had good reasons, as he led a good part of his semi-final race, that ended with a new World junior record of 2 :13.338 skated by Korean Um Cheon-Ho. The old record was of 2:13.340.

In the final, Gélinas-Beaulieu and Blais-Dufour were skating against the three Koreans, American J.R. Celski and Chinese Xu Peng. The two Canadians were 6th and 7th early in the race, but with eight laps to go, Blais-Dufour took 5th place with an inside pass, and Gélinas-Beaulieu followed for 6th. The Koreans, leading the race, accelerated.

With one lap to go, Gélinas-Beaulieu passed his teammate while the American skater went down in the corner, bringing a Korean down with him in the mats, offering the bronze to the Sherbrooke athlete. Um Cheon-Ho and Song Seung-Woo took gold and silver. “I had nothing to lose, so I gave everything I had. It was worth it!” finished Gélinas-Beaulieu.

The women’s final was similar, with two Canadians, three Koreans and one Italian. At the start, no one wanted to take the lead, and Maltais ended up doing it. The three Koreans went behind her, with St-Gelais in 5th. It was a slow start, but with a little more than six laps to go, the Koreans skaters took the lead and accelerated the pace.

Maltais spent many laps trying to make her place among them, trying to pass one a few times, but the Koreans kept coming back in the lead. Tired of all these passes, Maltais saw St-Gelais and Italian Arianna Fontana pass her in the last lap. St-Gelais started chasing the Koreans and came close to pass one at the finish, but it was too little too late for the 500m specialist. Noh Ah-Reum, Lee Eun-Byul and Lee Mi-Yeon gave a good team effort to take gold, silver and bronze.

“Unlike the Koreans, we didn’t have a team strategy at the start. We wanted to avoid letting them skate together, but that wasn’t easy”, explained St-Gelais. “My plan was to be patient and try something at the end, which is what I did. I’m really happy with my race, I was 12th last year in the 1500m, so this is great! I’m hoping for a medal in the 500m.”

The day started well for Canadian skaters, who all managed to qualify for the semi-final. Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, ON) saw her road end there when she finished third in her heat. The top two only were going to the final. Blondin gave it all, but it was a tough race with many passes in the last five laps. It was a race for the finish, but Blondin was just behind Italian Arianna Fontana. Blondin is 7th overall in the distance.

Maxime Fortin (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) had a similar experience on the men side. He was in a fast race filled with many passes, and he gave everything he had, but got tired near the end and had to settle for fourth place, which places him 11th overall.

For the last races of the day, Maxime Gauthier (St-Hyacinthe, QC) and Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) joined their teammates for the relay quarter finals. The men’s team took first place of their heat in front of the Russians and the skaters from the Netherlands, and qualified for tomorrow’s semi-final. The women did the same moments later, finishing second of a tight race between them and the Italians. A pass in the last lap gave the victory to the Italians, but both teams will be in the semi-final.

Athletes will be back on the ice at the Eugène-Lalonde arena tomorrow in Sherbrooke for the 500m races, the favorite distance of Canadian skaters.