Five More Short Track Medals for Canada in Dresden

Canadian short track speed skaters ended their 2010-11 World Cup season on a positive note, today, by adding five medals to their tally at the Dresden World Cup. Today’s medal, courtesy of Marianne St-Gelais (gold in the 500m), Guillaume Bastille (silver in the 1000m) and Marie-Ève Drolet (bronze in the 1000m) as well as the two bronze captured by the relay teams bring to eight the total of Canadian medals on German soil.

St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) confirmed her dominance in the 500m by winning her fifth race in the distance, today. She was able to remain undefeated in 500m World Cup racing, winning the title of World Cup Champion.

“My day was similar to yesterday,” explained St-Gelais. “I started out first, I stole the start a bit so I took off faster than the others in the final, and my time is even faster than yesterday.”

St-Gelais won the race in a personal best and Canadian record time of 43.091, Martina Valcepina of Italy took silver in 43.235 and Chinese Liu Qiuhong won bronze (43.275), leaving fourth place to Arianna Fontana of Italy (43.429).

“I knew I was strong in the 500m, but I didn’t expect to be that dominant. Now, I would love to become World Champion in the distance. I can definitely dream of it. Actually, I can’t really shoot lower considering my performances in the distance this year,” concluded St-Gelais.

Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) and Caroline Truchon (Chicoutimi, QC) were both in the B Final, and they finish respectively 6th and 8th overall.

Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) was next to step on the podium when she finished second of the 1000m final. She was the lone Canadian in the race. “I was first at the start, but the Japanese skater passed me and remained in front. It was a pretty fast race, I could have passed but I hesitated so I lost my chance, and then the Korean skater passed us outside at the end of the race,” described Drolet. Yang Shin-Young of Korea was the first to cross the finish line in 1:30.659. She was followed by Yui Sakai of Japan (1:30.741) and Drolet (1:30.852) while Lana Gehring of the United States settled for fourth in 1:31.171.

Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was second in the B final, for 6th overall.

With five men in the 1000m final, Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) knew it wouldn’t be an easy race. “The final was full of action,” explained Bastille. “Niels from the Netherlands always makes races quite interesting, and there were contact between him and two Koreans at different moments in the race. I took advantage of it, but it wasn’t my best race.”

Song Weilong of China won the race in 1:25.553, Bastille followed in 1:26.733, leaving the rest of the pack far behind. The bronze medal went to Noh Jinkyu of Korea (1:34.773), Deutch skater Niels Kerstholt was fourth and Korean Lee Ho-Suk fifth. Canada’s Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) finished 8th overall and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) 10th.

Contrary to their habits, Canadian skaters had a tougher time in the men’s 500m, where none of them was able to reach the semi-finals. Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) ends up 11th and Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) 12th. ¬¬

The women’s relay was a close race. St-Gelais, Drolet, Hewitt and Maltais raced for Canada. In the end, there was a lot of movement, but the Americans took the gold medal (4:12.939), the Koreans finished second in 4:13.037 and the Canadians third in 4:13.124, leaving Team China off the podium (4:13.458).

The men’s race was also full of surprises. “The ice was very fast, and the British skated a World Record in B Final. The Koreans wanted to get their record back, and they started out really fast,” explained Michael Gilday, who was racing for Canada alongside Blais-Dufour, Beaulieu and Jean. “With two laps to go, I tried to pass inside as we were third, and the ice broke. I fell and brought the Korean down with me. It wasn’t the best finish, but our race was much better than last week.” So Germany ended up crossing the finish line in first place with a time of 6:44.466, followed by Korea in 6:47.676 and Canada (6:47.687), while the Chinese were penalized.

This puts an end to a very successful season of World Cup racing for Canada in this post-olympic year. While some experience skaters sat out some of the World Cup stops and younger athletes got their first chance to gain valuable international experience, Canada still comes out with a total of 41 medals – 13 gold, 11 silver and 17 bronze, and two World Cup Titles, that of Marianne St-Gelais in the 500m and the men’s relay.

Speed Skating Canada top sponsor, Intact Insurance, had committed at the start of the season to give a $1000 grant to a club each time a Canadian skater would step on the podium at the World Cup level, so thanks to our short track speed skaters, 41 clubs spread across Canada will be receiving some much needed help.

The skaters will head back home on Monday, where they will remain for two weeks in preparation for the World Short Track Championships in March.