Audrey Phaneuf has perfect day in qualifying to open Short Track Speed Skating World Junior Championships

Audrey Phaneuf (Boucherville, QC) won all five of her races in qualifying, including the women's relay, on the first day of the 2015 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Junior Championships held until Sunday in Osaka, Japan.

Phaneuf, 18, who took part in the first three World Cups of her career with the senior national team earlier this season in Shanghai, Seoul and Dresden, qualified for the 500m quarterfinals and the 1500m semi-finals, set to take place Saturday, as well as for the 1000m quarterfinals on Sunday. She skated to first place in each of her heats.

For their part, Phaneuf and the Canadian women's relay, also comprised of Genève Bélanger (Montréal, borough Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, QC), Alyson Charles (Montréal, borough Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension, QC) and Rosalie Tremblay (Saint-Félicien, QC), earned a spot in Saturday's semi-finals by finishing first in their heat.

“It was a perfect first day with only first-place finishes. I'm really happy and I couldn't ask for more,” said Audrey Phaneuf. “I'm feeling really confident looking ahead to the rest of the competition. Today, I studied the other skaters and the ice a lot in order to have some good information which will help me in my next races.”

Genève Bélanger also qualified for the final rounds of all her races, taking a similar road than Phaneuf, except for the fact that she finished second in her heat in the heats of the 500m.

“After skating at the two World Cups held in Europe, I was under the impression I wasn't at 100%, but I still felt pretty good and I was able to have some good races,” noted Bélanger, who will turn 18 on Saturday. “I surprised myself in the 500m by having a more explosive start than I expected, which is very good for me. In 1500m qualifying, I had some problems with my blades, but it didn't have an impact.”

“As for the relay, I'm very happy with our performance. Our exchanges were way better than usual. Audrey and I noticed that Rosalie and Alyson improved a lot. I was really proud of them because they really did well to manage the stress and the pressure of skating well.”

Rosalie Tremblay, a 17-year-old skater who is taking part in her first-ever international competition, as is Alyson Charles, qualified for the 1000m quarterfinals to be held Sunday. However, she was penalized in the 1500m and was unable to finish her race in the 500m elimination round after falling to the ice.

“I made a few mistakes, which cost me in the 1500m and 500m,” noted Tremblay, who travelled directly from Prince George, B.C., to Japan after winning three gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze at the Canada Games.

“I'm a little bit disappointed because I feel I could have done better. I can take consolation from the fact that I qualifyed in the 1000m, the only distance where I remained calm through the entire race, which made the difference,” added Tremblay. “This is a day where I gained some experience and learned about myself. I'm disappointed, but still satisfied with my first day. ”

Samuel Girard starts off with penalty
On the men's side, Samuel Girard (Ferland-et-Boilleau, QC) kicked off the competition by being disqualified in the 1500m as he was penalized in the quarterfinals. He then qualified individually for the 500m and 1000m quarterfinals.

“I had a good first day in spite of being disqualified in the 1500m,” said the 18-year-old skater, who is part of Canada's national development team. “There was a questionable contact between a German skater and I. That being said, I couldn't let it bother me and I focused on my other races. I was able to let my 'penalty rage' out in the 500m, and it paid off.”

“I'm staying with my initial objective, which is to be world champion,” added Girard. “We'll go race by race and we'll see what the final result will be.”

Reining Canadian junior champion Sasha Alexander Fathoullin (Calgary, AB) qualified for the final rounds in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m events.

“So far, so good,” said Fathoullin, age 19, who is a member of Speed Skating Canada's national team. “I had to fiddle a little bit with my blades to get the feeling on the ice I wanted, but when I got it right, I felt I had better balance and was more relaxed. It was a long day, but I was able to manage my energy level throughout. I was nervous at first, but once the races started, I felt more comfortable.”

Maxime Laoun (Montreal, QC) qualified for the 1500m semi-finals, Saturday, before he twisted his left ankle and had to forfeit his other races.

“I was unlucky after coming up with a perfect race to start off with,” said Laoun, who also skated for Canada at last year's World Junior Championships. “I tripped on my blades, fell and came in contact with a Hungarian skater at the start of a turn. I will now try to qualify for the 1500m A final and for the relay. No way will I let the team down.”

In the men's relay, Canada finished second in its heat and qualified for Saturday's semi-finals after Maxime Laoun skated one lap in spite of his injury, and his three teammates finished the race to avoid being disqualified.

“We finished on a good note in a relay where we were only three. It's a good start to the competition!” said Samuel Girard.

The finals rounds and classification races for the men's and women's 500m and 1500m events, in addition to the relay semi-finals, will take place Saturday, on the second day of the World Junior Championships.

More information, including the complete schedule, can be found on Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.

TODAY'S CANADIAN RESULTS:
500m W
Audrey Phaneuf: 1st in her heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
Genève Bélanger: 2nd in her heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
Rosalie Tremblay: did not finish in the prelims rounds and eliminated
 
500m M
Samuel Girard: 1st in his heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
Sasha Alexander Fathoullin: 1st in his heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
 
1000m W
Audrey Phaneuf: 1st in her heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
Genève Bélanger: 1st in her heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
Rosalie Tremblay: 2nd in her heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
 
1000m W
Samuel Girard: 1st in his heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
Sasha Alexander Fathoullin: 2nd in his heat and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
 
1500m W
Audrey Phaneuf: 1st in her heat and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
Genève Bélanger: 1st in her heat and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
Rosalie Tremblay: did not finish in the prelims rounds and eliminated
 
1500m M
Sasha Alexander Fathoullin: 2nd in the quarterfinals and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
Maxime Laoun: 2nd in the quarterfinals and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
Samuel Girard: penalty in the quarterfinals and eliminated
 
Relay W
Canada: 1st in its heat and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
(Genève Bélanger, Audrey Phaneuf, Rosalie Tremblay, Alyson Charles)
 
Relay M
Canada: 2nd in its heat and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
(Maxime Laoun, Sasha Alexander Fathoullin, Sébastien Gagnon, Samuel Girard)

About Speed Skating Canada
Speed Skating Canada (SSC) is the governing body for competitive long track and short track speed skating in Canada. Founded in 1887, the association is comprised of 13 provincial and territorial branches representing more than 13,000 individual members, and counting. SSC believes that sport is an apprenticeship for life and prizes respect for others, integrity, excellence of effort, as well as a safe, healthy environment. SSC recognizes and values its outstanding volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. It also celebrates the 63 Olympic medals won by Canadian athletes since 1932, as well as the coaches, officials and other dedicated individuals who helped them on their journey.

SSC is proud to be affiliated with partners that share the same vision and values including our premium sponsor Intact Insurance, as well as our funding partners, the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, and WinSport Canada.

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For information:
Patrick Godbout
Communications & Media Relations Manager
Speed Skating Canada
Email: pgodbout@speedskating.ca
Phone: 514 213-9897
Website: www.speedskating.ca 
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Jeff MacKinnon   
Coordinator, Media and Communications Services – long track
Speed Skating Canada
Email: jmackinnon@speedskating.ca
Phone: 403-860-9525
Website: www.speedskating.ca 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SSC.PVC
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SSC_PVC