Canada’s Philippe Riopel Wins Gold at World Junior Speed Skating Championships

CHANGCHUN, China – Philippe Riopel of Lachenaie, Que., won the gold medal Friday in the men’s 500-metres and Justine L’Heureux of St-Tite, Que., added a silver in the women’s 1,500 to open the world junior championships in long track speed skating.

In the men’s 500, Riopel clocked 36.79 seconds for the victory with Roam Krech of Kazakhstan second in 37.07 and Trevor Marsicano of the U.S., third in 37.17. Kyle Gendron of Winnipeg 29th and Jordan Belchos of Toronto was 34th.

Riopel was fourth overall last year and has been busy this season including a participation at a recent World Cup. He currently holds the Canadian junior records in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500.

‘’Philippe kept his focus,’’ said Canadian national team coach Xiuli Wang of Calgary.

Philippe Riopel, Photo: Arno Hoogveld
‘’He was smooth and showed a lot of power.’’

The Netherlands swept the medals in the men’s 3,000 with Jan Blokhuijsen first, Koen Verweij second and Berden de Vries third. Belchos was fourth three seconds from a podium finish, Riopel eighth and Gendron 37th.

After two of four races, the top-three Dutchmen in the 3,000 are the overall leaders in the same order while Riopel stands fifth, Belchos 13th and Gendron 36th.

In the women’s 1,500, Marritt Leenstra of the Netherlands was the victor in 2:02.24 with L’Heureux second in 2:04.92 and Roxanne van Hemert of the Netherlands third in 2:05.90. Nicole Garrido of Edmonton was fifth and Sarah Gregg of Edmonton 28th.

It’s been a tough season for L’Heureux who has battled a groin injury and an illness this season. However last month she showed she was on the road back with a Canadian junior record performance in the 1,500. She was eighth overall at last year’s world juniors.

‘’Since January Justine’s been racing very well,’’ said Wang. ‘’This is her fourth world juniors and she is showing a lot of maturity. She’s very comfortable on the ice and her skating was excellent today.’’

In the women’s 500, Lu Zhang of China took the gold in 39.05, Leenstra was second in 40.33 and Seung-Ju Park of South Korea third in 40.44. L’Heureux was eighth, Gregg 20th and Garrido 27th.

Leenstra leads the women’s overall standings at 81.076 points, Zhang is second at 82.153 and L’Heureux third at 82.670. Garrido is 17th and Gregg 25th.

Competition continues Saturday.