Canadian men world champions, women close the gap with bronze at short track team worlds

A tradition of excellence continued for the Canadian men on Sunday at the short track speed skating world team championships.

Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., earned two individual wins to propel Canada to the gold medal in men’s competition while the Canadian women meanwhile took the bronze medal and gained a lot of confidence as they edged closer to the Chinese and Korean superpowers.

In men’s competition, Canada took the four-country final with 43 points to beat defending champion South Korea second at 36 and China third at 22. It’s the eighth team crown for the Canadian men since 1990.

The title came down to the 5,000 relay final which Canada led from start to finish clocking 6:44.450 while the Koreans were second in 6:44.669. Turcotte, Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., Francois-Louis Tremblay of Boucherville, Que., and Steve Robillard of Montreal raced for Canada.

‘’The times were close in the relay but we outskated the Koreans,’’ said Turcotte. ‘’We knew we had the speed and we kept the race at a high speed right from the start. We were confident that all four of us could keep that pace and that the Koreans would have trouble. That’s what happened.’’

In the team event, there are heats in the 500, 1,000 and 3,000 metres and a relay. There is a skater from each country in each heat. The winner in each heat earns five points for his country, second place three and third place one. Relay points are doubled.

Canada opened the final winning all four 1,000 metre heats with Turcotte, Hamelin, Robillard and Tremblay. In the 500, Turcotte took his heat, while Tremblay was second, Éric Bédard of Ste-Thècle, Que., third and Hamelin was disqualified.

‘’We started off like lions in the 1,000 then had some bad luck in the 500,’’ said Turcotte. ‘’We were disappointed at that point but we really rallied in the dressing room after the 500. We just forgot about what happened and moved ahead. We were convinced we would win.’’

In women’s competition, South Korea successfully defended its title, earning 43 points with China second at 35 and Canada third at 24. Canada was fourth last year.

‘’This is the closest to the top we’ve ever been since I’ve been on the team,’’ said Canada’s Amanda Overland, a third-year national team member. ‘’It was nice to get in there and challenge them and beat them in some of the races. That made things more positive. We’re not intimidated anymore, we step on the line we know we can be just as strong as anybody.’’

Overland, of Cambridge, Ont., won her 500 heat, was second in her 1,000, sixth in the 3,000 and helped Canada to third in the 3,000 relay with Kalyna Roberge of Levis, Que., Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., and Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal.

Boucher and Vicent added second place finishes in their 1,000 heats, Boucher was also third in the 500 while Kraus was fourth in both her 500 and 1,000 heats. Roberge was disqualified in her 500.

The Canadian team now heads to Beijing for the world individual championships which conclude the season.