Day 1 of the World Cup in Sochi

Qualifications on Day 1 of the Samsung ISU Short Track World Cup in Sochi

SOCHI, Russia
– Canadians Charles Hamelin and Marianne St. Gelais won their four races today in the 500 and 1,000 metres to advance to the quarterfinals of each distance at the Samsung ISU World Cup #5 (results web site).

With the Sochi 2014 Olympics only 371 days away, and this competition serving as the Olympic test event for short track speed skating, races got underway today at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi, Russia. Today’s races featured the qualifying rounds for the two 500-metre races, the 1,000 metres, the 1,500 metres and the men’s and women’s relay quarterfinals.

Canada’s six men and six women each compete in two individual races (team Canada notes). Saturday’s races will see the 1,500-metre race, the first of two 500-metre competitions and the men’s and women’s relay semifinals. On Sunday, skaters will compete in the 1,000-metre and second 500-metre races, as well as the relay finals.

In the men's first 500-metre distance, Hamelin, of Sainte-Julie, Que., Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., and Vincent Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., qualified for Saturday's quarterfinals. Hamelin and Jean won their preliminary and heat races to advance, while Cournoyer was second in both his races. Hamelin, who leads the 500 metres in World Cup points, also had the second fastest time today at 41.451 seconds. Wenhao Liang of China was the fastest at 41.387 seconds.

Moving on directly to the women’s first 500-metre quarterfinals were St. Gelais, of Saint-Félicien, Que., Gabrielle Waddell of Red Deer, Alta., and Caroline Truchon of Chicoutimi, Que. St. Gelais and Waddell finished first in both their qualifying races. Truchon won her preliminary race and was second in the heat.

Two of three Canadian men moved on to Saturday’s 1,500-metre semifinals. Charle Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., took second place in his preliminary race and then won his heat to qualify. Guillaume Bastille of Rivière-du-Loup, Que., takes his spot in the semifinals after finishing second in his first race and then having one of the fastest third place finishes (1:17.673). Michael Gilday of Yellowknife won his preliminary race, but was penalized in his heat and eliminated.

In the women’s 1,500 metres, Valérie Maltais of La Baie, Que., and Marie-Ève Drolet of Laterrière, Que., earned their spots in Saturday’s semifinals, while Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., will look to qualify through the repêchage rounds. Maltais won her heat and Drolet was second in hers to advance to the semifinals. Hewitt took third place in her heat in a time of 2:24.631. She was only 0.229 seconds off from qualifying as the fastest third place finisher.

The 1,000 metres saw Hamelin and three women reach the Sunday’s quarterfinals. Hamelin won both of his races and Drolet, Maltais and St. Gelais were also up to the task for the women. Again, St. Gelais won both her races; Maltais had first and second place finishes; and Drolet had a second place finish and then advanced as a fastest third. Jean, who clipped blades with another skater in his preliminary heat, finished third and will have to reach the quarterfinals through the repechage rounds. Gilday won his preliminary race, but then slipped to third place in the qualifying heat.

The second 500-metre race saw Charle Cournoyer and older brother Vincent join Bastille in Sunday’s quarterfinals. Bastille and Charle Cournoyer had first and second place finishes, while Vincent advanced to the qualifying heat as one of the fastest third and then took second place. In the women’s qualifying heat for Sunday’s main draw, Hewitt, Truchon and Waddell took the top spots in their races to bypass the repechage round and qualify for the quarterfinals. Hewitt and Truchon won both of their races, and Waddell had a first and second place finish.

In the women’s relay quarterfinals today, Canada took second place behind Korea, but was ahead of Germany and Hungary. Canada’s relay foursome included Drolet, Hewitt, St. Gelais and Waddell. The men’s team took first place in a heat with Germany, Turkey and the United States. Vincent Cournoyer, Bastille, Gilday and Jean led Canada to the win. The semifinals are on Saturday.