Justine L’Heureux second overall at world junior speed skating championships

CHANGCHUN, China – Justine L’Heureux of St-Tite, Que., won the silver medal in the women’s overall competition on Saturday at the world junior championships in long track speed skating.

L’Heureux finished fifth in Saturday’s 1,500 metres and eighth in the 3,000 final. On Friday she took the silver in the 1,500 and was eighth in the opening 500. Marritt Leenstra of the Netherlands was crowned the overall champion.

‘’I’m extremely pleased with my overall result,’’ said L’Heureux, the first Canadian woman to win an overall medal at the world juniors since Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg in 2004. ‘’My goal coming into the competition was to get at least a top-five finish. I couldn’t have expected a better result.’’

Heading into the 3,000 final, L’Heureux was standing third and was eyeing the silver medal position. She was paired with Leenstra who was uncatchable for first place at that point.

‘’My goal was to have as many even splits as possible,’’ said L’Heureux, competing at her fourth and last world juniors. ‘’I knew if I could keep pace with her I stood a good chance of climbing up a spot. But it was important for me not to panic and stick to my race plan.’’

Nicole Garrido of Edmonton made a spectacular comeback in the 3,000. She won the bronze medal in the race to climb from 15th to fifth in the overall standings. Sarah Gregg of Edmonton, competing at her first world juniors, was 27th overall. She is the daughter of former NHLer Randy Gregg and sister to Canadian short track team member Jessica Gregg and of Canadian long track development team member Jamie Gregg.

On the men’s side, Philippe Riopel of Lachenaie, Que., was the top Canadian in seventh place overall. On Saturday he was 11th in the 1,500 and 15th in the 5,000 final. Jordan Belchos of Toronto was fourth in the 5,000 and 13th in the 1,500 for eighth overall.

‘’I was hoping to do better overall,’’ said Riopel, fourth overall last year. ‘’But the guys skated really well this weekend so it’s not too disappointing. The three Dutch skaters at the top were very solid on the longer distances. Still some of my races could have been better. ‘’

Kyle Gendron of Winnipeg was 32nd overall.

Competition ends Sunday with the pursuits.