Canada’s François-Louis Tremblay wins gold at short track speed skating World Cup

HARBIN, China – François-Louis Tremblay of Montreal put a new defensive strategy to good use on Sunday as he won the gold medal in the men’s 500-metres to conclude the first stop on the short track speed skating World Cup circuit.

Tremblay’s win highlighted a four-medal performance for the Canadians on Sunday and six medals overall for the weekend.

In a blistering men’s 500 which neared world record times, Tremblay won the gold medal in 41.492 seconds with Si-Bak Sun of South Korea second in 41.566 and national team rookie Alex Boisvert-Lacroix of Sherbrooke, Que., third in 41.743 for his first career World Cup medal.

In training, Tremblay and the other Canadians have been developing a strategy to keep adversaries at bay when they have a lead in a race.

‘’My strength is my speed but I added this new skating line I’ve been working on to make sure the others didn’t pass me no matter how close they got,’’ said Tremblay, a bronze medallists Saturday in the 1,000. ‘’It’s nice to see new techniques come through for you in competition. It shows we are continuing to improve.’’

Boisvert-Lacroix was overjoyed to reach the podium at his first international event.

‘’I’m extremely happy and excited,’’ said the 20-year-old, a towering figure on the ice at 6’4’’. ‘’I never expected that kind of result. My goal was just to gain some experience. But this result gives me a lot of confidence. It shows I’m at the same level as the world’s best.’’

Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., third in Saturday’s first 1,500, was eliminated in the B final for sixth place.

In the men’s 5,000-metre relay, South Korea edged Canada for the gold clocking 6:55.504 to 6:55.834 for the Canadians. Italy was third in 7:02.843. The Canadian skaters were Tremblay, Robillard, Hamelin and Marc-André Monette of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que.

‘’We knew the Koreans would be our top opponent and we prepared ourselves to be in good position for my final two laps,’’ said Tremblay. ‘’But I simply couldn’t reel them in. Korea is consistently strong in this event so we have a challenge on our hands to catch them.’’

The Koreans swept the men’s 1,500 with world champion Hyun-Soo Ahn taking the gold. All three Canadians were eliminated in the semifinal with Steve Robillard and Mathieu Giroux, both of Montreal, and Marc-André Monette of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., ranking 19th, 20th and 21st respectively.

In the women’s 3,000-metre relay, China won the gold medal in 4:13.357, South Korea was second in 4:13.374 and Canada followed for the bronze in 4:17.040. The Canadian team members were Kalyna Roberge of Ste-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que., Tania Vicent of Vercheres, Que., Anne Maltais of Quebec City and Jessica Gregg of Edmonton.

‘’Our relay is going very well,’’ said Roberge. ‘’I think we gained some good confidence and we know we can finish closer to the leaders. We were up there until the last few laps before the Koreans and Chinese built a gap.’’

In the women’s 500, Meng Wang led China to a 1-2 finish clocking 44.322. Tian Yu Fu was second in 44.340 and Seung-Hi Park of South Korea third in 44.398. Roberge posted her second individual fourth place finish this weekend clocking 44.469.

‘’It was a so-so race for me,’’ said Roberge. ‘’I started fourth off the line and that put me at a disadvantage. I was never able to find an opportunity to pass, the race was so fast. Still to make two finals this weekend is a good start to the season.’’

Gregg won the B final for fifth place while Maltais was eliminated in the quarterfinals for 13th place.

It was a 1-2 finish for South Korea in the women’s 1,500 with Sun-Yu Jin taking the gold and Shin-Young Yang second. All three Canadians were eliminated in the semifinals. Vicent was 14th, Andrea Do-Duc of Montreal 17th and Amanda Overland of Montreal 20th.

The second stop on the World Cup is this Friday to Sunday in Kobe, Japan.