Jonathan Guilmette, Anouk Leblanc-Boucher win opening 1,500 races at Olympic team trials in short track speed skating

Veteran Jonathan Guilmette and national team sophomore Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal won the men’s and women’s 1,500-metre races Thursday to open the Canadian Olympic team trials in short track speed skating.

In the men’s 1,500, Guilmette, a gold and silver medallist at the 2002 Games, placed first as he kept the lead from start to finish.

“I couldn’t ask for a better start to the competition,” said Guilmette, 27, in his ninth year on the national team. “It’s going to be a very close battle between the guys. There are probably 10 men in contention for a spot on the team. The key is to stay consistent and make as many finals as possible. You can’t be up and down.”

In the women’s 1,500 final, Leblanc-Boucher upset veterans such as Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., and Tania Vicent of Montreal in her victory . Kraus actually crossed the finish line first but was disqualified for an illegal pass on Vicent just moments before the finish.

“I’m not surprised but I’m very happy,” said Leblanc-Boucher, 20. “I’ve come here with the goal to win some races.”

The trials run until Sunday September 11 and will determine the five men and five women named to the short track Olympic team. The 16 men and 16 women will contest each Olympic distance (500, 1,000 and 1,500) three times at the trials. The top skater overall at each distance gets an automatic selection to the team while the other selections are based on the overall standings from the entire meet.

Competition starts each night at 8 p.m. with Sunday September 4 and Thursday September 8 being off days. The team will be officially announced on Sunday night September 11 following the final races.

The 10 member-team then competes on the World Cup circuit which gets underway later this month in China. The third and fourth World Cups in Europe next month are the Olympic qualifier to determine the eight countries that compete at the Games. Also at those Word Cups Canada will finalise who races the individual events.

The short track team won the most medals for Canada at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City with six trips to the podium.

Competition continues Friday with the men’s and women’s 500 metres.