Charles Hamelin Takes 500m World Champion Title Back

Last year, Apolo Anton Ohno stole the 500m World Champion title from Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), but the Canadian skater was able to take it back today, in Vienna. All three Canadians were in the final, and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) joined Hamelin on the podium, as he won the bronze medal. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) added another bronze medal for Canada in the women’s 500m. It’s a first individual World Championship medal in career for both Jean and Gregg.

Hamelin was in great shape today, and he led every single one of his race from start to finish, never letting anyone pass him. It was a 5 men final with Hamelin, Jean and François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC) representing Canada, along with Korean Kwak Yoon-Gy and Lee Jialiang of China.

The race started with three unsuccessful starts (two false starts and one race being recalled when Hamelin and Jean fell after a contact with Lee). “Coming back on the line [after the fall], I got back in my bubble and I had my best start of all,” said the new World Champion after his race. “I tried to control my speed and track so that no one could pass me, there was a lot of action in the pack behind. I stayed relaxed throughout the race, it was a good one and I won it. It was my objective at the beginning of the day, after a deceiving day yesterday I wanted to come back strong,” continued Hamelin.

This victory puts him in second position overall, tied with Korean Lee Ho-Suk who won the 1500m yesterday. With a good race in tomorrow’s 1000m, Hamelin’s favorite distance, he could finish in the top-3 overall and be pre-qualified to represent Canada at next year’s Olympic Winter Games. Teammate Olivier Jean could also finish in the top three, as he now sits in 4th place overall, tied with American J.R. Celski, thanks to his bronze medal today.

“Charles and I were 1-2, we followed each other for the whole race,” explained Jean. “But in the last lap, Lee tried to pass me inside, I was trying to close the door on him, but I lost a bit of speed, and then Kwak passed outside at the finish, so I crossed the line 4th, but the Chinese was disqualified, which give me 3rd place. There was a lot of action in the last corner, with Lee trying on the inside and Kwak outside, I wasn’t sure what to protect, the inside or the outside, so they passed me on both sides. I should have been more aggressive in the last lap, I feel like I lost the silver. I’m still satisfied, I had a good day overall, my final could have been better. ”

Hamelin crossed the line first in 41.680, Kwak followed in 41.739 and Jean in 41.855. Tremblay was advanced from his semi-final race, so he was last on the start line, which always puts a skater in a tough position for a 500m race. He was stuck behind after the start, and didn’t manage to pass his competitors, so he crossed the line last in 42.164. After two distances, Tremblay is 6th overall, tied with Ohno.

On the women side, Jessica Gregg showed that her victory in the 500m at the Sofia World Cup a month ago was not an accident. She was very strong all day and faced three Chinese skaters in the final to skate to bronze in 43.437. Wang Meng, a dominant skater in the distance over the last few years, did not surprise by taking the gold in 43.182, followed by teammate Liu Qiuhong (43.358). Zhou Yang was 4th in 44.098.

“I had to race Wang Meng in two of my races today before the final, so my plan was always to stick with her and finish in the top 2 [to make it to the next round],” said Gregg. “I stayed behind her both times and I got two personal bests. It was really fast times so I was 1st in the line for my semi-final. In the final, it was a tough race with three Chinese skaters, I managed to stay third, so I’m really happy. My parents are here, my mom [Kathy Gregg, a former speed skating olympian] is celebrating her birthday today so it’s a good birthday present for her!”

The two other Canadian skaters were eliminated in quarter finals. “Kalyna [Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC)] had a slight blade contact with an American off the start of her quarter final race, which caused a loss of balance and gave a 4-5 meter gaps to the first two skaters,” explained Yves Hamelin, Short Track Program Director for Speed Skating Canada. “In the 500m, it’s hard, almost impossible, to catch up on such a gap and she couldn’t do it.”

Roberges takes 10th place in the distance, and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was last of her quarter final heat for 14th position.

The men’s relay team (Hamelin, Jean, François Hamelin and Marc-André Monette) was disqualified in semi-final after Olivier Jean tried to pass a German skater at the beginning of the race. There was a contact and the German fell, so Team Canada was disqualified. This is a big disappointment for Team Canada, as they were hoping to take the title this year. “We worked hard this season in the relay, we were in really good shape,” said Jean. “I take the blame, I’m the one who made the mistake, but we’ll definitely be back at the World Team Championships next week and we’ll try and make up for it.”

The competition ends tomorrow in Vienna, with the 1000m races and the super final in the 3000m, followed by the relay finals.

Meanwhile in Canada, short trackers hope to make National and Development Teams for next year

While the top 5 male and female short track skaters in Canada are at the World Championships in Vienna, their teammates are skating in the National Team Selection #2 at the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal, hoping to qualify for next year’s National and Development Teams. In yesterday’s 1500m, junior skaters dominated on the women side as Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau won the final in 2:37.69, followed by Laurie Marceau (2:37.80) and Ivanie Blondin (2:37.88).

On the men side, Rémi Beaulieu took the gold in 2:14.93, with Guillaume Bastille second in 2:15.21 and Cory Rasmussen third (2:15.29). Athletes are skating the 500m today, and will conclude with the 1000m on Sunday.