Canada Comes off Strong on First Day of Beijing Short Track World Cup

Canada’s Short Track Olympic Team was taking part in the first day of World Cup action of the season, today, in Beijing, and athletes showed they were still in great shape only one month after their Olympic Team Selection event in Vancouver. All of Canada’s skaters were able to qualify for the quarter final rounds of the 500m and 1500m races, to be held on Saturday, in Beijing.

This year’s World Cup format has changed slightly, to allow for two days of qualification events instead of one, partly due to the number of skaters registered for all World Cups. Over 65 male and 50 female skaters were on the start lists of today’s events, and athletes had to finish in the top-2 of their 500m rounds and top-3 of their 1500m rounds to qualify. Unlike for the last three World Cup seasons, athletes who do not manage to qualify will not be getting a second chance at the distance, as there are no more repechage rounds.

World-renown for their strenght in the 500m, Canada’s top short track skaters did not disappoint. All men flew by their first and second rounds, winning each of them, and getting prime positions for their quarter final rounds. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) even posted the fastest time of the day in the distance (41.551), while François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC) posted the second fastest time (41.730). This is great news for Tremblay, who had not skated in a competition since last year’s World Championships, after an ankle injury last spring kept him off the Olympic Selection event. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), consistent as usual, was never really threatened in his rounds.

On the women side, it was a similar scenario. “All the girls were extremely competitive in the 500m, and Jessica [Gregg (Edmonton, AB)] finished the day with the 4th fastest time,” said Jonathon Cavar, Gregg’s coach. Both Gregg and Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) won their two heats, St-Gelais crossing the finish line of her first one over 2,5 seconds before her closest opponent. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) also had a very strong first round, before finishing second to Nannan Zhao of China in an eventful second round.

In 1500m action, Hamelin and Jean continued to impress, finishing first of their respective heat, posting the third and fourth fastest times of the day on the distance. Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was second of his race, easily qualifying for Saturday’s quarter finals.

Canada’s women skaters, Roberge, St-Gelais and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) also went through their first round on the distance, Maltais and Roberge crossing the line in second place of their respective heat and St-Gelais taking third place. “The women were in control of their means, managing their energy properly, keeping in mind there are three days left to the competition,” explained Sébastien Cros, Canada’s women short track coach. “The ice conditions are not ideal, it’s fairly soft, but that’s the same for everybody,” continued Cros.

Action will resume tomorrow morning in Beijing, with the qualifying rounds of the 1000m and relay. Roberge, Gregg and Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) will be representing Canada in the 1000m, along with Tremblay, Hamelin and his younger brother François (Ste-Julie, QC).