Canadian short track speed skaters break the ice

Canadian Short Track speed skaters stepped on the Harbin ice, today, for the second day of competition of the 24th Winter Universiade. Tyler Derraugh (Winnipeg, MB) and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) posted the two best results of the day with 6th and 7th place respectively in the 1500m.

Both athletes made the final of the event, but had a hard time breaking through some well-executed but somewhat dodgy Korean race tactics and were kept in the back for 6th and 7th place overall.

“There was definitely an element of team racing our guys had to fight through, but it’s not like we don’t see that all the time,” said Canadian head coach Stephen Gough. “To be honest, I thought the guys did really well to put themselves in the positions they were in. With four laps to go, they were second and fourth. If we’d drawn a bit of break down the stretch, we might have been able to sneak in for a medal.”

Korean skaters swept the podium with Lee Seung Hoon taking gold in a time of 2:18.016, narrowly edging out countrymen Kim Seoung Il and Yun Tae Sik. Derraugh complete the race in 2:20.667 and Bastille in 2:22.360.

“I was especially happy for Tyler,” continued Gough. “It’s his first really big international event and he skated a really good semifinal. Bastille’s effort was hampered by a minor equipment problem, having clashed with other competitors early in the race. Given those set of circumstances, I’m pretty pleased with the way things turned out.”

Canadian skater Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB) advanced to the semifinal by virtue of a second place finish in the 8th and final preliminary heat, but was unable to advance to the final. Richard Shoebridge (Cambridge, ON) failed to advance to the semifinal after a 4th place finish in his preliminary heat. McFarlane concludes the distance in 13th position and Shoebridge in 27th.

On the women side, China dominated the podium in the 1500m and no Canadian made it to the final. Zhou Yang took the gold medal, ahead of fellow Chinese skaters Liu Qiuhong and Sun Linlin.

Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montreal, QC), Annik Plamondon (Longueuil, QC) and Nita Avrith (Montreal, QC) all qualified from their preliminary heats, but none were able to advance to the final and they finished in 11th, 12th and 13th place respectively.

“For our girls, it was about what I expected,” said Gough. “There were four Chinese and four Korean skaters in the semifinals, and I thought the girls handled themselves well. Marie-Andrée had a great tactical race in her semifinal. She recognized the team tactics the Chinese were trying to implement in the race as the one skater got out front and tried to slow up the pack. The hole opened for her teammate, but Marie-Andrée jumped in and blocked her out. I thought she got bumped late in the race, and the official took a look at the video, but he didn’t make any disqualifications.”

Gabrielle Waddell (Red Deer, AB) posted a 4th place finish in her preliminary heat, which wasn’t enough to move to the semifinal rounds, for 19th position overall.

Canadian athletes will skate in the 500m tomorrow, and the women will also skate the qualifying round of the relay race.

Team Canada website: www.cisport.ca/harbin

2009 Winter Universiade website: www.harbin2009.org