Gilday Saves the Day for Canadian Skaters at Québec Short Track World Cup

Canadian skaters had some tough luck today at the Korean Air ISU Short Track World Cup at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse in Québec City. But Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) saved the day with a beautiful win in the 1500m, his first career individual World Cup gold medal. Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) added a bronze medal in the 1000m a few moments later.

It looked like it could be another great medal harvest for Team Canada, today, when all three women racing the 1500m qualified for the final. Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC), Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) and Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) had to battle against American Katherine Reutter, Japanese Sakurai Biba and Chinese Zhou Yang in the final. With three finalists out of six, Canada was definitely hoping to see at least one of its skaters step on the podium. But fate would have it otherwise as all three found themselves in the back of the pack with 8 laps to go. Each of them tried making their way to the front more than once, but each tentative was quickly blocked by the skaters in front. Olympic champion Zhou Yang ended up winning the race in 2:20.893. She was followed by Reutter (2:20.944) and Sakurai (2:21.103). Maltais took fourth place in 2:21.833, closely followed by Drolet (2:22.020) and Mendes-Campeau (2:23.102).

Michael Gilday focused on keeping his lead in the 1500m, Photo: Simon Pichette
The men’s 1500m final was up next, and Gilday was the lone Canadian representative on the ice. The Canadian had just raced an outstanding semi-final in which he took the lead of the pack after a 2 ½ laps outside pass to win the race, but it’s with tired legs that he presented himself to the start line for the final. “With eight guys in the final, I really wanted to be in front of the pack, not wait too much to make a move,” explained a smiling Gilday after the race. And he did just that, making his way in front with a powerful outside pass seven laps before the end of the race. A few skaters then passed hm, but he went back to the front where he was for the last two laps of the race, claiming his first World Cup individual gold medal in a time of 2:18.005. Italian Nicola Rodigari finished in second place (2:18.118) and Maxime Chataignier of France won bronze (2:18.129).

“I’m really happy with the win,” continued Gilday. “I wasn’t too sure of myself after the semi because my legs were really tired, but I managed to find the strenght to do it!” Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was in the B final after a tough semi-final in which he was relegated to fourth place. The B final started out slow, but everyone exploded in the last lap, and Bastille finished 3rd, which gives him 11th place overall. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) also raced the 1500m, but he fell with just over two laps to go in his semi-final and was eliminated, for 16th place.

In the women’s 1000m, St-Gelais was up against Italian Arianna Fontana and two Americans, Lana Gehring and Alyson Dudek. Shortly after the start of the race, Dudek tried to pass St-Gelais, who kept her line and didn’t give her space. Dudek fell and brought St-Gelais down with her, but the american suffered a shoulder injury which forced the referee to recall the race. The Canadian skater however had to race with no edge, and she couldn’t follow the other two skaters in the final, so she had to settle for bronze. Gehring led the race from start to finish and won gold in 1:34.675, closely followed by Fontana (1:34.886).

“It’s really too bad,” said a disappointed Marianne St-Gelais afterwards. “I lost my

Mendes-Campeau gives the relay to Lambert, Photo: Simon Pichette
edge, and it’s frustrating because I would have liked to be able to fight with these girls for a medal, not watch them race for behind. But with the relay coming up, I just couldn’t risk a fall so I had to skate slower.” Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) received a penalty for impeding in the B final and finished 7th, while Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC), tired after going through three rounds of the repechage in the morning, finished third of her quarter final, for 11th position in the final ranking.

It was badluck after badluck for the men in the 1000m. François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) was the last Canadian standing in the semi-final, but he was disqualified for impeding and relegated to 9th place. Maxime Fortin (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was ousted after falling in his quarter final, and ends up 15th, and François-Louis Tremblay (Boucherville, QC) finished third in the repechage final for 17th place.

The day ended on a good note when both of Canada’s relay teams qualified for the final. The women – St-Gelais, Drolet, Lambert and Mendes-Campeau – finished second of their semi-final behind the American team, and the men – Charles and François Hamelin, Gilday and Bastille – won their race ahead of the Chinese.

Action resumes tomorrow at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse in Québec City, where Marie-Ève Drolet and Guillaume Bastille will be the first in action at 9am to take part in the 500m and 1000m repechage respectively. The rest of the Canadian Team will join them at 1:30pm for the quarter, semi and final rounds in those distances as well as the finals of the relay. Canadian skaters hope to win as many medals as possible since Intact Insurance gives $1000 to a canadian club each time a Canadian skater steps on the World Cup podium this season.