Canadian Skaters Prove Their Domination in the 500m at Vancouver World Cup

Canadian short track speed skaters dominated the 500m races today, and all six athletes qualified for the quarter finals to be held Sunday at the Pacific Coliseum. These were not the only successes of the home team: eight athletes also qualified straight to the quarter and semi finals on Saturday, and both relay teams will be of the semi finals.

Canadians are known for their strength in the 500m, and all skaters in Vancouver this weekend have a chance to make a podium in the distance. The men’s team is definitely the strongest, with Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) finishing 2-3 in the distance last week. Hamelin is not skating the distance this weekend, but his young brother François (Ste-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) are, along with Tremblay. All three skaters had two strong races. In the second heat, it looked like the game plan was to start out

François Hamelin leading the way; Photo: Jeff Bough
fast and lead the race from start to finish, as all three Canadians used the same strategy to finish first of their heat with a comfortable lead.

“We all had good times in the first round”, said Hamelin at the end of the day. “We were all first on the start line, so it was the strategy that made sense: go out fast, make sure you stay there, so you don’t need to risk passes.”

It was a similar scenario for the women, as Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB), Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) and Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) were all able to qualify for Sunday’s quarter final races. St-Gelais skated a very strong second race, just like the men did, and she was able to cruise to the finish line well ahead of her competitors.

“I’m really happy, the 500m is the distance in which I want to perform well, so it’s great to make it to the finals”, she explained. “I was planning on going with a fast start and accelerate through my first lap, and it worked well against those girls. I’m hoping to do as best as I can in this distance, race strong every time and not make mistakes. This is great experience for me!”, concluded the 18-year old skater.

The Hamelin brothers and François-Louis Tremblay were also racing the first 1000m, and they will all be part of the quarter finals tomorrow. Charles Hamelin dominated his second heat, while François Hamelin and Tremblay had to go for numerous passes in order to finish 1st and 2nd of their respective heats, but the end result was the same for all skaters.

“I was slightly cut on the thigh when I fell in my first race, so I lost a little bit of concentration in my second race, but I was still able to focus”, said Hamelin, who was advanced from his first heat after another skater made him fall.

The women did not have the same luck, and only Marianne St-Gelais was able to win her spot in the quarter finals. Both Anne Maltais and Gregg will have to get up

Marianne St-Gelais will be able to sleep this weekend, as she qualified in both her distancs; Photo: Jeff Bough
at dawn Saturday to partake in the repechage rounds. Maltais had an unfortunate fall in her second race, while Gregg was passed in the last lap and relegated to third place.

“I’m happy with how I skated the 1000m”, said St-Gelais. “As a kid, the 1000m was the race that was giving me the most trouble, but the more I learn to skate it right, the more I start to enjoy it. It went well, I was able to follow my strategy and place myself properly in both races.”

Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montreal, QC) and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) will also be at the Pacific Coliseum early tomorrow for their respective 1500m repechage. Both athletes were passed by competitors just before the finish line, finishing third. The other Canadians in the 1500m will go straight to semi-finals on Saturday, as Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) and Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) were 2nd of their respective race while Olivier Jean and Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) took the honours in theirs.

The last distance skated this weekend will be a second 1000m race on Sunday, and three Canadians will for sure be part of the quarter finals. Only Valérie Maltais qualified for the women, with two strong races in which she stayed close to the leaders to secure her second place finish. Mendes-Campeau was facing a very tough heat and stuck in third place for the last five laps, unable to pass successfully. She will be in the repechage Sunday morning. Hewitt was disqualified for impeding in her last race of the day when she tried passing two skaters with just over one lap to go.

It was similar on the men side, with Charles Hamelin first getting disqualified for impeding in his first heat while passing all four opponents with two laps to go. World Cup rookie Rémi Beaulieu, once again won both his races. Beaulieu, who skated in a World Cup for the first time last weekend in Salt Lake City, has won each of his heats in qualifications both last week and today. His team-mate Michael Gilday will join him in the quarter finals Sunday.

The women’s relay team of Jessica Gregg, Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau, Valérie and Anne Maltais led their heat until the last few laps, when the Dutch team passed them. They finished second, qualifying for tomorrow’s semi-final. On the men side, Charles Hamelin, Michael Gilday, Rémi Beaulieu and Olivier Jean were in action, and they did not disappoint, winning their race with an impressive lead.

Tomorrow, Mendes-Campeau, Gilday, Anne Maltais and Gregg will be in action starting at 8 at the Pacific Coliseum, hoping to qualify to join the rest of their team-mates at 2pm for the final rounds in the 1500m and 1000m.