Canadians Break the Ice at World Short Track Championships

Canadian skaters may not have stepped on the 1500m podium on the first day of the World Short Track Championships, but they are not ready to give up and hopes are high for tomorrow, as Canada’s strongest distance – the 500m – will be the highlight of Day 2 on the ice in Vienna.

All of Canada’s athletes were very strong in their first rounds with François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC), Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) all winning both their heats and quarter final races to qualify for the semi-finals.

Pressure was high, as typically, the 1500m is not the strongest event for Canada at the World Championships. But with a lot at stake – including a chance to pre-qualify for next year’s Olympic Winter Games – skaters were ready to give their best.

In semi-final, Tremblay was the first in action, alongside Korean Kwak Yoon-Gy and American Apolo Anton Ohno. “With Kwak and Ohno who are 1500m specialists, unlike me, I wanted to keep my energies for the end of the race,” explained the Canadian skater. “With 5 laps to go, I achieved a pass giving me the 2nd position, and I stayed there almost until the end, but in the last lap, the Korean passed me. The last four laps were extremely fast, and I wasn’t able to take my second position back, it was really tight, had I been a 1500m specialist I might have been able to do it, but in my case, I think it was still a great race.” Tremblay finished 3rd of his heat in 2:20.552, behind Kwak (2:20.225) and Ohno (2:20.332).

Kwak went on to win the silver medal, second to teammate Lee Ho-Suk, with J.R. Celski taking the bronze. Tremblay finishes the distance with the best Canadian result, a 9th place.

Olivier Jean was the next Canadian in action, and he actually finished 2nd of his semi-final heat, just behind Lee, but he was disqualified after a slight contact with a Japanese skater after completing a successful pass. “Olivier should have been in the final, he deserved it and would have been strong,” said Yves Hamelin, Short Track Program Director for Speed Skating Canada. “It was a heart breaking disqualification, Olivier had a great race and he shouldn’t have any regrets.”

With his teammates out of the final, Charles Hamelin was the last Canadian on the ice with a chance to make the final. His race was another good one, alongside Korean Sung Si-Bak and American J.R. Celski. Hamelin, third, tried a pass with around 6 laps to go, but didn’t have enough speed. He tried again in the next corner, but with too much speed this time, which forced him to try and pass both skaters at the same time, but Celski fell and Hamelin was disqualified.

“I’d say I wasn’t patient enough, when I tried my first pass, there were 5-6 laps to go, enough time for me to try a different style,” said a disappointed Charles Hamelin. “I tried it again right away, but it was a little too tight and JR Celski fell, which led to my disqualification. I can’t say I didn’t deserve it, I have to take it and learn from this mistake.” Hamelin concludes the event in 19th place and Jean in 20th.

On the women side, Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) also won her quarter final heat, while teammates Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) and Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) were second in theirs to ensure all Canadian skaters would be of the semi-finals.

In semi-finals, Maltais, a junior-aged skater taking part in the first senior World Championships of her career was in the first heat, and she settled for 4th place, giving her the 11th position overall, a very respectable result for the 18 year old athlete. “In semi-final, I knew it would go fast. There were sprinters in my race, so I decided to go up front to give a faster pace with 7 laps to go, as I’m able to keep a good speed,” described Matlais. “The Korean and Chinese both passed me at the same time with two laps to go, I followed them really closely afterwards, hoping to keep my energies for a pass at the finish, but I wasn’t able to. I reached my objective, I wanted to have a strong race. I was extremely nervous for my first race, but then it went better, and now I wish the 500m was today, I can’t wait to race them!”

Next up was Gregg, a 500m specialist. She had a strong race, but simply couldn’t keep up for the last few laps, and she takes 17th place overall in the distance.

Kalyna Roberge was last, facing what could have been a final round with Chinese Zhou Yang, Korean Jung Eun-Ju and American Katherine Reutter. “There was no room for mistakes,” said Yves Hamelin. “Kalyna had a good race, she fought the whole time, it was a very eventful race and she simply wasn’t able to pass in the end.” This places Roberge in 10th place overall for the 1500m. Koreans Kim Min-Jung and Shin Sae-Bom took the gold and bronze medal respectively, with Chinese Zhou Yang winning silver.

The women’s relay team made of Anne Maltais (Québec, QC), Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC), Roberge and Gregg finished 2nd of their semi-final race behind Korea and will be of the final on Sunday, hoping to repeat or improve their silver medal finish last year.

Competition continues tomorrow with Canada’s favorite and strongest event, the 500m.