Gregg & St-Gelais on the Podium at Beijing Short Track World Cup

Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) won Canada’s first two medals on the Short Track World Cup Circuit today, in Beijing, with the silver and bronze in the 500m. Overall, it was a good day for Canadian skaters, with 8 top-10 performances for twelve skaters.

Gregg and St-Gelais finished second to Wang Meng of China in a strange 500m final. Wang, a dominant skater in the distance, was first on the start line, with Zhao Nannan, also of China, second, St-Gelais and Gregg 3rd and 4th. “I knew that all the girls have a good start,” said Gregg afterwards. “I was looking for an opportunity, and when Marianne and Zhao fell, I just kept going on the inside to pass second. Wang was quite a bit ahead and I tried to close the gap.” But closing a gap on Wang Meng in a 500m race is never easy, and Gregg had to settle for 2nd place in 44.241 (Wang finished in 43.430).

After the fall, St-Gelais got right back up, knowing third place was still at stake. “The Chinese skater didn’t react very fast, but when she saw me get up we went back at it and I was fighting with her to keep my third position, which I managed to do,” explained the young skater. “It’s fun to get a medal at the first World Cup, but you can’t just sit on it, you have to keep going hard each time.”

This was a second career World Cup medal for St-Gelais, who won a silver last season at the Vancouver World Cup, also in the 500m. Gregg, winner of the bronze in the distance at last year’s World Championships, is starting to achieve podium performances consistently. “This feels great, I picked up from where I left off at Worlds last year, my summer training was good, so I’m ready,” finished Gregg.

Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) was Canada’s other skater in the distance, but she felt back pain during the quarter final, a recurring problem for the young skater, so she did not skate the semi-final rounds. Roberge will be evaluated again tomorrow, but she may not skate out of precaution.

On the men side, François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) was the lone Canadian skater in the 500m final, with three Koreans and an American. Tremblay gave it all in a very close final, but Kwak Yoon-Gy took the gold in 41.526, followed by teammate Sung Si-Bak in 41.544 and Jeff Simon of the USA (41.665). The Canadian finished fourth in 41.827, ahead of Lee Seung-Jae (41.939).

Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) finished 3rd of his semi-final race and was relegated to the B final, which he won in 42.098 for 6th place. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) was disqualified in his semi-final race after a very small contact with another skater. “Olivier is a big guy,” explained Sébastien Cros, one of Team Canada’s coaches. “So as soon as there’s a small contact, you can see it well. He actually finished in the top-2, but was disqualified for slightly touching a Korean skater. It was a very severe disqualification, but that’s part of the sport.” Jean winds up 8th in the distance.

The 1500m quarter, semi and final rounds were disputed just before the 500m, and both Hamelin and Jean made the final round on the men side. They were facing, once again, three Korean skaters in the final, as well as one Japanese athlete. It was a very slow race from the start, skaters fighting for positions. With 6 laps to go, the pace became extremely fast, and Hamelin was third. “A Korean skater came from the outside and cut me off, touching me slightly,” said Hamelin, “so I got scared and pushed him a bit, I lost some speed and ended up 5th. I then played catch up and caught up to Olivier [Jean] and passed him for 4th place”. Hamelin then tried to pass a Korean at the finish but had to settle for fourth place in 2:25.578.

The Koreans took over the podium with Sung Si-Bak first in 2:25.386, Lee Ho-Suk second (2:25.395) and Lee Jung-Su third (2:25.492). Jean was fifth in 2:26.587.

“Overall I’m really happy with my 1500m, I had not competed in a while, so I wasn’t completely confident going in,” explained Hamelin. “The 1500m opened my eyes on what I could do. I could have done better, but it’s a good start.” Canada’s other skater in the distance, Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) finished 21st.

Kalyna Roberge was the top skater on the women side, but a disqualification in the B final forced her to settle with 12th place overall. “She was passing on the inside in the last two laps, the Japanese skater in front saw her and changed her trajectory a bit, so there was a contact, Kalyna fell and was disqualified. It was a tough call, but because of her fall, she would have been last in the round anyway,” explained her coach Sébastien Cros. Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was eliminated in semi-final for 18th place and St-Gelais was 24th.

Tomorrow, Hamelin, Tremblay and François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) are set to race in the 1000m, along with Gregg, and possibly Roberge. Skaters will also take part in the final rounds of the relay to conclude this first stop of the 09-10 World Cup Circuit.