Canada’s Justine L’Heureux & Kirsti Lay make top 10 in a strong field of Pan-Pacific speed skaters at University Games

(Harbin, China, February 20, 2009) – The women’s 1500m top five was stacked with Asian world cup speed skaters, including Nao Kodaira of Japan in first place. Canada’s Justine L’Heureux (St-Tite, QC) and Kirsti Lay (Medicine Hat, AB) were the lone North American skaters to crack the top 10, finishing in impressive seventh and tenth places at the 24th Winter Universiade in China.


L’Heureux, who is on Canada’s National Development Team, finished the race in 2:03.45. “I’m very happy, this is not the best I could have skated, but for the most part, I’m satisfied,” said L’Heureux of her 7th place finish. “The top three skaters were way ahead, but spots four through seven were quite close. I made some mistakes in the race, which cost me placings, but it’s easy to look back and see what you should have done.”


Second through fifth spots went to China’s Feifei Dong, Jia Ji, Koreans Seon-Yeong Nho and Ju-Youn Lee, showing the depth of speed skaters from the local region.


Tenth place and a time of 2:03.59 was a good result for Lay, who has been nursing a shoulder injury and was not able to race yesterday. “The race I put together was the best I could have done but when you see how close you were, you always think ‘Oh, I could have pushed that much harder, or I could have shot my skate that much further.’ I didn’t really have great expectations for this race, so I’m pretty happy with 10th,” said Lay.


Calgary speed skaters Shannon Sibold and Anastasia Bucsis also competed in the 1500m today, coming in 19th and 26th.


In men’s racing, Keith Sulzer, also from Calgary, was .04 seconds away from the top ten in the 5000m competition, placing 11th with a time of 6:45.77. The top three podium places went to Arjen van der Kieft and Renz Rottevell, both from the Netherlands, and Artem Belousov, from Russia, breaking the sweep of medals by Asian skaters in long track competition.


Sulzer, 21, is studying economics at the University of Calgary and is part of Speed Skating Canada’s Talent 2014 Squad. “Looking at the results, I think I was nine seconds off the podium, but I know I didn’t leave that much on the track – I know I made a second’s worth of mistakes, and to have it so tight like that makes it more visible. Overall, I was content with my race, but to know I could have got a few more spots with just a handful fewer mistakes is tough,” explained Sulzer.


Finishing out the list of Canadians who competed today is Vincent Blouin (Quebec, QC), who came 18th in the 5000m in 6:54.32. He attends Laval University and is part of the 2014 Squad with Sulzer.


Tomorrow the women compete in the 3000m while the men will race heats, semis and finals in the 100m.
Canada has sent a team of eight long track athletes, for the first time, to the Winter Universiade games. All are university students except for L’Heureux and Philippe Riople (Lachenaie, QC), who attend CEGEP.

Results are updated on the Universiade web site at http://en.harbin2009.org/


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