Kali Christ, Denny Morrison win 1500m races to open the Canadian Single Distance Long Track Speed Skating Championships

Kali Christ of Regina and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., recorded their season-best times Friday, on their way to winning the women's and men's 1,500m races at the Canadian single distance long track speed skating championships.

Christ finished in one minute and 56.00 seconds while Morrison skated the distance in 1:46.02 to capture the gold medals on the opening day of the four-day competition at Calgary's Olympic Oval.

Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa took the women’s silver in 1:57.59 and Kate Hanly of Calgary, the bronze in 2:00.25. The men’s silver went to Vincent de Haitre of Cumberland, Ont., in 1:46.54 while Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary took bronze in 1:47.55.

“I’m really happy with that race,” Christ said. “It was one of my best executed races so far in terms of race plan and technical things that I wanted to work on, and include in my race.”

Morrison had a more tempered reaction to his result.

“If this had been a World Cup, my chances of making the podium with that time would have been slim, so I’m kind of disappointed in that respect because I wanted to push myself today,” said the 1,500m bronze medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics. “Everyone’s times were a little slower today than they were at the fall trials. It was really tough ice.”

Morrison said he was aiming to be closer to his personal best of 1:42:01, which he skated on March 14, 2008 in Calgary. His previous best time this year in a 1500m race was 1:47.05, at the opening World Cup in Obihiro, Japan on Nov. 16, where he finished fourth.

Morrison was happy, however, to share the podium with training group partners de Haitre and Bloemen. The latter set the Canadian record in the 10,000m at the Canadian fall World Cup trials in late October.

“We are all coached by Bart (Schouten) and we have a strong training group, so we should be able to form a really good team pursuit unit at the world championships and a really strong team at World Single Distance Championships,” Morrison said.

On the women's side, Christ did not post the results she wanted at the first four World Cups this season and had just one top 10, which came in the last race before Christmas on Dec. 14 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

“My races weren’t coming together the way I wanted them to,” she admitted. “Bit by bit, they were slowly coming together, but I think this is a big leap for me right now.”

Earlier Friday, Jess Neufeld of Winnipeg, Manitoba, won the men’s 1,500m in 1:51.50 at Canada Cup #2. Alexandre Déry of Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, Quebec, and Braden Clouthier of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, were second and third, respectively.

It was a Quebec sweep in the women’s 1,500m, as Meryem Labidi took gold in 2:05.83, followed by Geanne Blais-Dufour and Beatrice Lamarche for silver and bronze, respectively. All three athletes are from Quebec City.

Both the Canadian single distance championships and Canada Cup #2 continue Saturday with the women’s 3,000m and the men’s 5,000m. The Canada Cup #2 starts at 9 a.m., local time, and the Canadian championships at 1:15 p.m.

The 47 skaters taking part in the Canadian Single Distance Championships this weekend are looking for spots in the two winter World Cups, Jan. 31-Feb. 1 in Hamar, Norway, and Feb. 7-8 in Heerenveen, Netherlands, World Single Distance Championships Feb. 12-15 in Heerenveen, World Sprint Championships Feb. 28-March 1 in Astana, Kazakhstan, and World All Round Championships March 7-8 in Calgary. The skaters taking part in the Canada Cup #2 competition will look to improve their Canadian ranking.
 
For the two winter World Cups, skaters with top six placing in 2014-15 World Cup rankings, for a maximum of two per distance, have already qualified. Following the first four World Cups this season, Laurent Dubreuil (second in the 500m overall ranking), Morrison (sixth in the 1500m) and Blondin (first in the mass start and fourth in the 3000m) have already pre-qualified for the two Winter World Cups.
 
More information, including full schedule and a link to the results, can be found on Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.
 
About Speed Skating Canada
Speed Skating Canada (SSC) is the governing body for competitive long track and short track speed skating in Canada. Founded in 1887, the association is comprised of 13 provincial and territorial branches representing more than 13,000 individual members, and counting. SSC believes that sport is an apprenticeship for life and prizes respect for others, integrity, excellence of effort, as well as a safe, healthy environment. SSC recognizes and values its outstanding volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. It also celebrates the 63 Olympic medals won by Canadian athletes since 1932, as well as the coaches, officials and other dedicated individuals who helped them on their journey.

SSC is proud to be affiliated with partners that share the same vision and values including our premium sponsor Intact Insurance, as well as our funding partners, the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, and WinSport Canada.

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For information:
Jeff MacKinnon   
Coordinator, Media and Communications Services – long track
Speed Skating Canada
Email: jmackinnon@speedskating.ca
Phone: 403-860-9525
Website: www.speedskating.ca 
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Patrick Godbout
Communications & Media Relations Manager
Speed Skating Canada
Email: pgodbout@speedskating.ca
Phone: 514 213-9897
Website: www.speedskating.ca 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SSC.PVC
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SSC_PVC