Marianne St-Gelais Golden in Moscow

Days before the first anniversary of her silver medal win in the 500m at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) celebrated in her own way, today, by stepping on top of the podium in that same distance at the Moscow Short Track World Cup, in Russia. And to be sure to make it really similar, she added a silver medal along with her relay teammates, just as they did last year in Vancouver. The men’s relay team went on to add a touch of their own with the bronze medal, bringing Canada’s medal tally to five in Russia.

St-Gelais has won every 500m race she entered on the World Cup Circuit so far this season, a sign that the Olympic medal was not a lucky one. Despite sitting out two World Cup stops in December, she is the current leader in the distance. Today, she was up with teammate Caroline Truchon (Chicoutimi, QC) in the final. Racing in her first career World Cup, Truchon admitted being really nervous when stepping on the line yesterday for the 1000m quarter final race, in which she was eliminated. Looks like one day was enough for her to get those butterflies away, as she successfully passed two rounds in order to make today’s final with St-Gelais.

But with Liu Qiuhong and Fan Kexin of China and Martina Valcepina of Italy also on the start line, the two Canadians knew they’d have to fight for the podium. Liu started out front, but St-Gelais was able to pass her in the first straight to make her way to the finish line first in 43.612. Liu won the silver medal in 44.026 and Valcepina was third in 44.459. Caroline Truchon had an excellent race and came very close to stepping on the podium, finishing fourth with a time of 44.503.

“I’m really happy with the win,” explained St-Gelais in a teleconference from Moscow. “I was second on the line and managed to get in front right away. I know what I’m able to do in the 500m and I think other skaters know it too, and it’s nice that I can do it time and time again.”

Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) saw her path end in semi-final when she finished third, good for 6th place overall.

The men had high hopes for the 500m, their most successful distance in international skating. But a string of bad luck prevented Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) to make his way to the semi-final after he was deported in his quarter final round, forcing him to settle for 16th place. The bad luck went on to hit Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) who fell in semi-final, good for 9th place.

“I was third on the line but made my way to second place,” explained Hamelin. “With two laps to go, I lost my balance and fell on my heels. Before I could get back up, the German skater also fell and hit me pretty hard, so with a sore neck, elbow and coccyx, it was better for me to end my day there and not do the relay.”

This left François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) the sole Canadian in the final. American Simon Cho won the race in 42.157. Paul Stanley of Great Brittain followed in 42.274 and Freek Van Der Wart of the Netherlands won bronze with a time of 42.345, while Hamelin has to settle for fourth place (42.432).

In the second 1000m event of the weekend, Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) was the top Canadian, with a second place in the B final, good for 6th place overall in the distance. Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) was eliminated in the repechage final and finishes 18th, while Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montreal, QC) is 23rd.

On the men side, all three Canadian skaters saw their day end in quarter finals. Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) finds himself 13th, Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) 14th and Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) 16th.

The relays were the last two events of the day. The Canadian women’s team, made of St-Gelais, Drolet, Hewitt and Gregg for today’s final, was able to win the silver medal. They started out front, but the Chinese team quickly passed them and made their way to the finish line in 4:12.308. Canada was just behind in 4:12.687 and Team Italy won the bronze medal (4:20.731). Truchon and Mendes-Campeau raced in the qualification round, so they were also on the podium for Canada.

“We’re happy with our relay,” said St-Gelais at the end of the racing day. “We wanted to follow the Chinese and hope to beat them, we had similar times in semi-final so we knew we could be close which is exactly what we did.”

The men’s relay team, made of François Hamelin, Jean, Blais-Dufour and Gilday for today, was hoping for a win in the final, but a fall along with the Chinese team with about 15 laps to go prevented them from doing that, and team Canada had to settle for the bronze medal, while the Netherlands flew away with the gold (6:52.216) and France won silver (6:52.609). Charles Hamelin and Rémi Beaulieu also received the bronze medal.

Some of Canada’s short track skaters will be heading home tomorrow, while the rest will make their way to Dresden, Germany, where they will compete in the last World Cup of the season next weekend.