Canada’s short track speed skaters are set for another big season

Amélie Goulet-Nadon of Laval, Que., and Jean-François Monette of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., aren’t concerned that off-season injuries will hamper their abilities to solidify their positions as international stars in short track speed skating.

The pair are currently tuning-up for the six-stop World Cup season which gets underway October 17-19 in Calgary at the Conematic Heating ISU Short Track World Cup.

This past winter, Goulet-Nadon established herself as an early medal contender for the 2006 Winter Olympics. The 20-year-old earned season World Cup crowns in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 and was a silver medalist in the 500 at the world championships.

Last month in training, Goulet-Nadon tweaked her knee but is expected to be 100 percent for the World Cup opener.

''There'll be pressure on Amélie for sure, but it's a good pressure,'' said Canadian national team coach Guy Thibault of Montreal. ''She was upset with her performances at the world championships and she's determined to be on top this year from start to finish.''

The biggest change on the team this summer was the retirement of 1998 Olympic champion Annie Perreault of Rock Forest, Que. She was replaced by Anne Maltais of Montreal. Also on the team are veterans Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., and Tania Vicent of Montreal as well as sophomore Amanda Overland of Kitchener, Ont.

On the men’s side, Monette after some tough seasons, cracked the A line-up and capitalized on his opportunity claiming the 500 metre World Cup title.

This summer the 24-year-old science student separated his left shoulder when he crashed cycling at a team summer training camp.

''The accident certainly disrupted my training plans,'' said Monette, a substitute on the 2002 Olympic team. ''A lot of the upper body work I was scheduled to do got put aside. But I'm fully recovered now and I'm confident the injury won’t have too much of an effect

"Last year I did better than expected and this year I'm aiming even higher.''

The men’s team is loaded with experience with Olympic medallists Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal, Éric Bédard of Ste-Thècle, Que., and Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., as well as 500-metre world record holder Jeff Scholten of Fredericton.

Thibault said his troops performed beyond expectations last season on the World Cup circuit but he was hoping for gold medals at the world championships. He said this year the priority will clearly be the worlds set for March 19-21 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“We had a very good world championships last year but it didn’t duplicate what we did on the World Cup,’’ Thibault said. “So this season we want to win gold medals at the worlds. We know we have the talent to achieve that goal. This year for the first time we’ll even have a pre-worlds training camp.”

The other World Cup stops are October 24-26 at Marquette, Illinois; November 28-30 at Jeonju City, South Korea; December 5-7 in Beijing; February 6-8 in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic and February 13-15 at Bormio, Italy. The world team championships precede the Gothenburg worlds on March 13-14 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Canadian championships are January 22-25 in Abbotsford, BC.