Fifteen-year-old wins opening race at short track speed skating senior national team trials

Ivanie Blondin of Orleans, Ont., was a surprise winner in the women’s 1,500-metres on Friday to open the national team trials in short track speed skating while Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., took the men’s race.

In the women’s 1,500, Blondin, in her first career appearance at a senior team trials won the race in two minutes and 26.437 seconds. Nita Avrith of Montreal was second in 2:27.398 and Annick Plamondon of Longueuil, Que., third in 2:27.439.

I kept looking behind me as I neared the finish line and I couldn’t believe it,” said Blondin, who helped Canada to a bronze medal in the women’s relay at the world junior championships last January. “It’s a huge surprise I never expected it. As I advanced after each round I kept telling myself I have nothing to lose and I went for it. To make the senior national team would be incredible. The 1,500 is my best race so I have a lot of work ahead in the other races.”

Anne Maltais of Quebec City was fourth, Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., fifth and Raphaele Lemieux of Riviere-de-Loup, Que., sixth.

In the men’s 1,500, Jean’s attempt to get back on the national team is off to a good start as he won the final in 2:16.459. Marc-André Monette of Pointe-aux Trembles, Que., couldn’t hold the lead in the dying moments of the race and was second in 2:16.486. Mathieu Giroux of Montreal was third in 2:16.695. Remi Beaulieu of Montreal was fourth, Jeff Scholten of Fredericton fifth and Guillaume Bastille of Longueuil sixth.

‘’It’s wonderful to get some confidence right off the bat,’’ said Jean, a 21-year-old ecology student at the Université du Québec à Montréal. ‘’My goal was to try and control the race and make as little errors as possible.’’

The competition, which runs through to Sunday at the Olympic-sized Clareview Arena, helps determine next season’s national and developmental teams.