Canadian women win relay gold at short track speed skating World Cup\ Olympic spots finalized for Canadians

Canada’s biggest medal producing team at the last Olympics is now set for this February’s Games as the World Cup season in short track speed skating concluded Sunday with a golden performance for the Canadian women’s relay.

Canada with Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal, Kalyna Roberge of Ste-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que., and Amanda Overland of Kitchener, Ont., won the gold medal in the women’s 3,000-metre relay in 4:23.131. The Canadians also place second in the final relay World Cup standings.

“The win gives us a lot of confidence,” said Overland, a member of last year’s world champion relay squad. “We’ve been having some consistent success over the past couple of seasons which puts us in the hunt for a medal at the Olympics.”

The men’s 5,000 relay final was cancelled due to poor ice conditions.

“I’ve never seen that happen in my career but the paint was literally coming off the ice,” said Eric Bedard of Ste-Thecle, Que. “We’re disappointed not too race it since we haven’t won a relay this season and we are going in as the Games’ two-time defending champion. Our goal is to keep Canada at the top in the relay at the Olympics.”

Canada is now qualified for the Games in both men’s and women’s relays.

Canada’s racers at the Olympics were decided in the 1,000 metres on Sunday. Overland and Vicent took the women’s spots. Both were eliminated in the semifinals for fifth and seventh respectively.

“My races went very well today in the 1,000,” said Overland. “I have a lot of confidence in my abilities in the event. I went into today’s races not feeling anymore nervous than usual. I felt prepared.”

Bedard and Francois-Louis Tremblay of Boucherville, Que., took the men’s 1,000-metre spots. Bedard was eliminated in the semis for sixth and Tremblay in the quarterfinals for 19th. Bedard also places fourth in the 1,000 World Cup season standings.

“I know what I need to do to have success at the Olympics,” said Bedard, a double medallist at the 1998 Nagano Games. “I know the tactics of my main opponent. It won’t be necessarily the strongest skater that wins but the one that is the most clever.”

Canada’s qualifiers in the other Olympic events this weekend were for the women: Overland and Leblanc- Boucher in the 1,500 and Leblanc-Boucher, Kraus and Roberge in the 500; and for the men Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., and Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., in the men’s 1,500 and Bedard and Tremblay in the 500. Veteran Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal is also on the Olympic team.

In the final World Cup nations standings, both Canadian teams were second with the women finishing behind China and the men behind South Korea.

The short track team won the most medals for Canada at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City with six trips to the podium.

Canada’s qualifiers by distance

Distances Athletes

500 m femmes Alanna Kraus, Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, Kalyna Roberge

500 m hommes Éric Bédard, François-Louis Tremblay

1 000 m femmes Amanda Overland, Tania Vicent

1 000 m hommes Éric Bédard, François-Louis Tremblay

1 500 m femmes Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, Amanda Overland

1 500 m hommes Charles Hamelin, Mathieu Turcotte