Canadian Short Trackers Dominate 500m Qualifications at Seoul World Cup

Canadian skaters had a good start in the 1500m and 500m qualification rounds at the second stop of the 09-10 World Cup Circuit in Seoul, Korea, despite a very long day and challenging ice conditions. All male skaters have advanced to Saturday’s quarter finals, while Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) qualified in the 500m, Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) in the 1500m and Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) in both distances.

Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) had the most grueling day, having to go through 2 rounds of 1500m and 3 rounds of 500m. Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) joined them for the 1500m, and all three athletes skated well, following good racing strategies to win one of their rounds and finish second of the other, ensuring they would all be part of the quarter finals in the distance.

On the women side, with less competitors registered, athletes only had to skate one 1500m race. Roberge had the second fastest time of the day when she finished second to American Katherine Reutter in her race. Tania Vicent also managed to qualify when she finished second of her wave, after leading the pack for the last seven laps. “I was tired in the last few laps,” said Vicent, “but I managed to keep the right racing pattern to allow me to qualify.”

Luck was not with Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) today, and she was disqualified in the 1500m. “Valérie had a hard time positioning herself against Hungarian Erika Huszar and German Julia Riedel, and she ended up disqualified,” explained Team Leader Yves Hamelin. She will not be able to skate in the next round, but will have another chance in tomorrow’s 1000m.

In the 500m, both Roberge and Gregg dominated all three of their rounds, ensuring their spot in the quarter finals. Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), winner of a bronze medal on the distance in last week’s World Cup, had a good start, winning her first round and finishing second of her second. But a bad starting position (4th) in her third race against some of the world’s fastest skaters such as Chinese Zhao Nannan and American Alyson Dudek kept her out of the quarter final action, as she was not able to pass the tight pack and finished fourth.

It was a close call for François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) in the first round, as he was also fourth on the start line, but he managed to take the third position in a time fast enough to qualify. He then went on to win his other two races, as did brother Charles and teammate François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC), who dominated all their 500m races.

“Once again, François-Louis showed that his ankle injury is fully healed, and that he is back in top condition for this Olympic season,” said Yves Hamelin at the end of the day.

Tomorrow, all skaters will be back on the ice in Seoul, when Roberge, Maltais, Vicent, Jean and the two Hamelins will take part in 1000m qualifications, and both of Canada’s relay teams will also be in action.