Junior speed skaters compete for spot on National Team

Six Olympic Oval short trackers are in the top qualifying round of the Olympic Oval’s Canadian Junior Short Track Championships and vying for one of six spots on the national team.

Hometown skater Guy Abbott sits in fourth place after the 1,500 metres finals today. “I’m pretty happy just to be in the A Finals right now”, says the 19-year-old. “This is a big step for me as I wasn’t close to this position last year.”

Joel Mineau, of Que., Nicholas Bean, of Ont., and Marc-Antoine, of Que., placed one, two and three after the 1,500 metres.

To compete for a place on the Canadian Junior Short Track Team, the under-19 skaters needed to place in the men’s and women’s top 16 at this morning’s time trials. Olympic Oval skaters Jessica Gregg, Gillian Richmond, Jessica Hewitt, Michael Gilday and Abbott all qualified and can now skate the 1,500, 500 and 1,000 metres Group One heats this weekend to grab one of three men’s or women’s places on the national team.

Former member of the Canadian Junior Short Track Team Jessica Gregg took a spill in the 1,500 metres final and sits in sixth place. “I feel good about my racing so far, but I can’t make stupid mistakes like I did today,” says the Edmonton skater. “I have to race smart for the rest of the weekend if I want to make the team.”

Gregg is also stronger in the 500 metres race and is optimistic that she can still get one of three spots on the Canadian Junior Short Track Team for a second year in a row. Ivanie Blondin, of Ont., placed first after the 1,500 with Valerie Maltais and Valerie Lambert of Que., in second and third.

More then 80 junior short track skaters from across Canada are competing in this weekend’s competition. Skaters who make the team will get the opportunity to skate at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships Jan. 6 – 8, 2006 in Romania. Making the team gives junior skaters a lot of great experience leading to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

The top ranked skaters will be selected by their accumulated points from all four races skated this weekend. Sunday’s races, the 1,000 and 1,500 metres, start at 9:00 a.m. at the Olympic Oval.

Text courtesy Bridget Cox, Communications Specialist, Olympic Oval.