Charles Hamelin & Marianne St-Gelais pick up two wins each to kick off season

Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais kicked off their 2015-2016 season on the right foot by winning the first 500m and 1500m races, Friday, on the first day of the Fall World Cup Selections being held until Sunday at Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal.

In the women's 1500m, Marianne St-Gelais of Saint-Félicien, QC, finished ahead of Valérie Maltais from La Baie, QC, and Kim Boutin from Sherbrooke, QC. Boutin took 7th place in that distance at last season's World Championships.

Skating in third place with a lap and a half to go after coming into contact with another skater, St-Gelais showed off her power by coming back to overtake Boutin and Maltais, who were leading the way, as they were coming out of a turn.

“In the 1500m, I always try to stay among the top three or four, in order to be able to react no matter what the situation,” said St-Gelais, a three-time Olympic silver medal winner. “Today, I got tangled up with someone and was slowed down, which allowed Valérie and Kim to go out in front. I then said to myself that I needed to go all out in order to have no regrets and, because I knew I had good legs and good speed, I was able to overtake them perfectly even if it was a little bit risky.”

Later in the 500m, St-Gelais earned her second win of the day, finishing ahead of Boutin and Kasandra Bradette from Saint-Félicien.

“I was nervous when the day started,” said St-Gelais. “I expect a lot from myself. But as the day went on, my confidence grew. I was ready after following a good training program over the summer.”

Charles Hamelin leads the way in the men's races
On the men's side, Charles Hamelin from Sainte-Julie, QC, went on to win both races slated for Friday.

In the 1500m, a distance in which he won one of his four career Olympic medals – a gold in 2014 – Charles Hamelin finished ahead of the two skaters who were his teammates in individual distances at the 2015 World Championships, Samuel Girard from Ferland-et-Boilleau, QC, and Patrick Duffy from Oakville, Ont.

“I tried to go with a new approach today by trying different race strategies,” explained Charles Hamelin. “It went well even if I was nervous during my first race. After that, I felt better about my game plan.”

Two top-6 results for Namasthée Harris-Gauthier and Pascal Dion
Among the other athletes who skated well on the first day of competition, 21 year-old Montreal-based skaters Namasthée Harris-Gauthier (Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie borough) and Pascal Dion (Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles borough) both came with top-6 results.

Harris-Gauthier finished sixth in the women's 1500m and 500m races, while Dion ended up fifth in the men's 1500m and sixth in the 500m.

“I had an incredible day,” said Pascal Dion, who finished fourth in the 1500m event at the 2015 Winter Universiade and 12th in overall Canadian senior standings last season. “I really didn't expect to reach the 1500m final, much less finish among the top-8 in the 500m. With this good start and the confidence I've built today, I hope to keep going and end up qualifying for my first World Cup.”

Namasthée Harris-Gauthier, for her part, wasn't entirely satisfied with her day of skating.

“I didn't come up with the results I had hoped for, in the 1500m for instance, which is my strength. And a contact with another skater pushed me back to sixth place. This the race I counted on to earn a spot on the World Cup team,” said the 21-year-old skater who took part in her first two career World Cups last season, in Seoul and Shanghai.

“I'm satisfied with my 500m, however. I've progressed well in that distance compared to the last few years, for example by improving my starts. But I still have work to do. Nothing is set with four more races to go this weekend.”

Competition will continue on Saturday with 1000m and 1500m races and, Sunday, with another 500m and 1000m. Races will start at approximately 1:45 pm to conclude at 5 pm on Saturday. Sunday, competitions will begin at 10:45 am approximately and end around 3:30 pm. Admission is $5 on Saturday and Sunday.

Selection criterias for the Fall World Cups
The 32 skaters (16 men and 16 women) taking part in the Fall World Cups Selections are vying for a spot on the National Team that will represent the country in the first four World Cups of the 2015-2016 season, including the first two to be held in Montreal (Oct. 30-Nov. 1) and Toronto (Nov. 6-8).

Canada will send a total of six men and six women to each of these World Cups. The three highest ranked skaters, based on the total points earned in their best two distances, automatically qualify for the World Cups. The three other positions per gender will be discretionary choices.

The six skaters automatically qualified based on the overall ranking will be named next week while the six discretionary choices will be announced in a few weeks.

The full schedule, and the list of competing athletes as well as results are available on Speed Skating Canada’s website at www.speedskating.ca.

About Speed Skating Canada
Speed Skating Canada (SSC) is the governing body for competitive long track and short track speed skating in Canada. Founded in 1887, the association is comprised of 13 provincial and territorial branches representing more than 14,000 individual members, and counting. SSC believes that sport is an apprenticeship for life and prizes respect for others, integrity, excellence of effort, as well as a safe, healthy environment. SSC recognizes and values its outstanding volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. It also celebrates the 63 Olympic medals won by Canadian athletes since 1932, as well as the coaches, officials and other dedicated individuals who helped them on their journey.

SSC is proud to be affiliated with partners that share the same vision and values including our premium sponsors Intact Insurance and Samsung, as well as our funding partners, the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, and WinSport Canada.

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For information:
Patrick Godbout
Communications & Media Relations Manager
Speed Skating Canada
Email: pgodbout@speedskating.ca
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