Four Canadian Medals at World Short Track Championships

Excellent day for the Canadian short track speed skaters at the World Short Track Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, as all skaters made their way to the final of the 500m. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) and François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) managed to grab the silver medals, while teammates Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) took the bronze.

Today’s results show once again that Canada is dominant in the distance. On the women side, the final was all red, with Roberge, St-Gelais, their teammate Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and World and Olympic Champion Wang Meng from China.

Wang has been practically unbeatable on the distance over the last few years, and today was no different. She took off first and never looked back, to earn gold in 43.619. St-Gelais was second off the start line, followed by Roberge and Gregg. Roberge made a pass in the third lap, and crossed the finish line in 43.679 for silver, closely followed by St-Gelais (43.747), while Gregg had to settle for fourth place (44.066).

“Each medal has a different signification,” explained St-Gelais afterwards when questionned regarding the value of this medal now that she has an Olympic one. “This is my first medal at World Championships and I’m really proud of what I did.”

As for Roberge, she was very happy with her result. “A second place today is excellent for me! I knew everyone would have a fast start, so I wanted to make sure to have a good position off the start and to stay relaxed after, which I did really well.”

The men’s semi-final were very eventful, resulting in two advancements (Tremblay and Charles Hamelin), for a six-men final. The three Canadians lined up alongside Liang Wenhao of China, Lee Ho-Suk of Korea and Haralds Silovs of Latvia. François Hamelin was the first off the start, while Tremblay managed an outstanding start, to take third place, closely followed by Charles Hamelin. Liang overtook the first place in the last lap, claiming the World Champion title in 41.383. François Hamelin crossed the finish in 41.456 for silver, Tremblay (41.526) hung on to his third spot while Charles Hamelin had to settle for fourth in 41.526.

“I had a great racing day,” explained the silver medalist. “Everything was playing out well for me, I’m really happy but I also have to admit that I took advantage of the bad luck of others,” he continued. “Charles and François-Louis fell in the semi-final, they were advanced but were 5 and 6 on the start line, which gave me an advantage. I was able to take the lead and I did everything I could to stay there.”

Tremblay knew he had to take advantage of his fast start to hope to get on the podium. “Being 6th on the line in the 500m is very unusual, and it’s asking a lot – it means there are many skaters to pass! I took advantage of the fact that my start is one of the fastest in the world to take the third place off the start. After that the race was fast and it was tough to find another chance to pass, so it was between Charles and me at the finish.”

The only set-back for Canada today was the men’s disqualification in the relay. The Olympic Champions will not get to try and add the World Championship title to their stellar year. “We were in the front, everything was going well,” explained the team leader on site, Yves Hamelin. “In the middle of the race, during an exchange, Charles was pushing Guillaume and the Chinese were behind. They were really large in taking their exchange, and they ended up behind Charles. The Chinese skater’s blade touched Charles’ skate and he fell. An official considered it was impeding while normally, it’s the responsibility of the skater making the pass to ensure not to touch another relay skater. Honestly, none of us understands the decision but at this point, we can’t do anything else but live with it.”

The World Short Track Championships will come to an end tomorrow, in Sofia, as skaters will take to the ice for the 1000m and 3000m distances, as well as the final of the relay.