Lots of Action on Day 1 of the Fall World Cup Selection in Short Track Speed Skating

Vancouver witnessed a lot of action, today, as the top short track speed skaters in the country stepped on the ice for their first ever competition at the Pacific Coliseum. At stake are six spots for men and six for women on the Fall World Cup circuit. Skaters are giving it their all, hoping to represent Canada on the international stage, including at the 2nd stop of the circuit, here in Vancouver on October 24-26.

With that on the line, there’s a lot of pressure for skaters to perform well, and that led to many falls and disqualifications throughout the day, causing some surprises in the results. No race is easy, but everyone is prepared for that.

Jessica Hewitt (front) and Marianne St-Gelais, Photo by Jeff Bough
The first victory of the day was credited to local skater Jessica Hewitt (Langley, BC), who crossed the finish line with a big smile in the women’s 1500m final. Hewitt finished second of her semi-final race before winning the A final. She was in the lead heading into the last lap, and was able to avoid a 4-skater fall in the second to last corner, to fly to the finish line alone. Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) was last before the collision, but was able to cross the finish line in second place, followed Annik Plamondon (Longueuil, QC), Nita Avrith (Montreal, QC) and Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB). The other finalist, Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau, QC), was disqualified for impeding, which caused the fall.

It was Hewitt’s first career victory in a national competition with all the top skaters in the country. She had won races in the last team selection event, but the top 5 skaters don’t skate in that competition. “It feels awesome, it’s wonderful,” said a smiling Hewitt after her day. “I knew I could do it. A few days before I left for the selections, I actually had a dream that I won the 1500m. I feel like it’s all coming together now, good results are finally coming after a lot of hard work.”

On the men side, it was a closely disputed contest, all races being skated at a fast pace with athletes fighting for the first two spots. In the A final, the top five skaters kept switching positions, trying to lead the race. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) took a very small lead going into the last lap, to secure the first and second place respectively at the finish line. They were closely followed by Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT), Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC), Mathieu Giroux (Montréal, QC) and finally François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC).

In the 500m, it was not surprising to see Jessica Gregg cross the finish line in first place, as she has been very consistent in that distance over the last few years. Her powerful start helps her get out from the pack right away, and cruise to the finish line in first. Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) finished second, due to a great pass on Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) with just about two laps to go. Maltais was third, and Jessica Hewitt fourth.

The men’s 500m is always a great show, with most of the fastest skaters in the

The men 500m final, Photo by Jeff Bough
world being from Canada. Today was no exception, but the final result was similar to that of the 1500m, with Charles Hamelin leading all four and a half laps to cross the finish line first, followed by Olivier Jean in second. Marc-André Monette, also skating his second final of the day, was thrid, and BC native Cory Rasmussen finished fourth.

“I was confident coming into the competition,” explained Hamelin after his second victory of the day. “I was doing great in training all summer, I normally experience some fatigue during the off season, but it was not the case this year, I managed to stay in great shape. I knew what to expect from the other guys, we had a mini competition three weeks ago so that helped give a good idea of what was coming. I felt no external pressure, so it was just a great day for me!”

These distances will be skated again in the next two days, along with the 1000m that will also be skated twice. The top two skaters in total points for each distance will be automatically selected to the World Cup Team, so every race is important.

Competition starts at 1pm again tomorrow at the Pacific Coliseum, with the 1000m being disputed first, followed by the 2nd 1500m. Four athletes, two male and two female, will be officially named to the World Cup Team at that time. The event ends on Thursday, with the last 500m and 1000m races, starting at 9am.

“It’s great to skate here, where the Olympics will be,” finished Hewitt. “It’s a great motivation. For me, I want to make the World Cup team, that’s been a goal for some time now, so I just need to focus on one race at a time, not think too much, enjoy the process… and results will come!”