Great Canadian Medal Haul Today at Short Track World Cup

The Canadian Short Track Speed Skating Team had a great showing today in Salt Lake City by capturing five more medals, one silver and four bronze, for a total of six over the weekend.

Canadian skaters lived up to their reputation as some of the best sprinters in the world as the three individual medals were won in the 500m. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) added a silver to the one he won yesterday, and team-mate François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) joined him on the podium for the bronze medal. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) was the other individual medallist with a bronze in her specialty.

It was a busy final in the men division, with an usual six skaters on the start line. All three Canadians were in the count: Tremblay, Hamelin, and his younger brother François (Ste-Julie, QC). Korean Sung Si-Bak took the gold medal, and François Hamelin finished in 5th place.

“It wasn’t easy, with an injury to my ankle on Friday, I was disadvantaged from the start”, explained Tremblay. “I didn’t walk on it at all yesterday, hoping to rest it as much as I can, and it paid off. It was a very unusual situation with six guys in the final, I’ve never seen that in my life. I was 6th on the line, so I’m extremely satisfied with this bronze medal in these circumstances.”

On the women side, Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) was unable to make it through the repechage round in the morning, so only two skaters were part of the finals of the 500m. Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) was eliminated in quarter final when she finished fourth of her heath, which left Gregg the lone Canadian in the final. The young skater who previously won a bronze medal in a World Cup in 2006 was not intimidated by the three Chinese girls also in the final and skated a strong race to win her second carreer individual medal in a World Cup. Chinese skaters Wang Meng and Liu Qiuhong took gold and silver respectively.

“I feel really good about the bronze medal, I was excited to be in the final, and after winning a World Cup medal two years ago, I really wanted to get another one this time”, explained Gregg after receiving her medal. “The fact that the other three skaters in the final were Chinese motivated me more to go for it. I was second on the line, but came out of the first corner in 3rd after one of the girls squeezed in front of me, and I stayed in that position for most of the race. The other Chinese passed me, but there was no room for it so she got disqualified. This medal is a huge confidence booster going in to Vancouver next week, I know I can skate as fast as these girls, and in Vancouver, I will have the home crowd advantage so I look forward to it!”, she concluded.

Team Canada had good results in the 1500m as well, all athletes placing within the top-13. On the men side, all three Canadians qualified for a final, but Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) was the only one who had a chance for a medal as Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) were relegated to the B Final by finishing very close third in their semi-final races. Jean, in his first World Cup after a year off the circuit due to a serious injury in the Fall of 2007, finished 7th, Beaulieu 9th and Gilday 10th.

Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) and Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) proved that making the B Final was not an accident yesterday when they both did it again today in the 1500m race. The young Maltais even went on to win her last race for an excellent 7th place overall, and Mendes-Campeau finished 12th. Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) went once again through two repechage races in the morning and came out as the top skater, which allowed her to skate in tonight’s final rounds. That was a lot of races for the rookie World Cup athlete over the weekend, and she was eliminated in the semi-final for 13th place overall.

The relay finals put an end to the competition, and both Canadian teams won bronze medals. It was a close one for the men’s team, who finished less than a second after the Koreans and Americans who won gold and silver. China and Korea took the other two podium spots for the women.

“The Relay medal has a different meaning, it’s a team medal, so it’ll always remind us of the girls we skated with, I’m really happy with it”, said Maltais, for who it was a first ever World Cup medal.

Athletes make their way to Vancouver tomorrow, where they will train all week and compete in the second World Cup event of the season at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on October 24 to 26th. For ticket information, please visit ticketmaster.ca, and for all details on the event, go to www.vancouvershorttrack2008.com.