Marianne St-Gelais, Kasandra Bradette & Kim Boutin all reach podium & each come up a personal first at the Short Track World Cup held in Turkey

Marianne St-Gelais, Kasandra Bradette and Kim Boutin all came up with personal firsts on their way to a podium finish, Saturday, at the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup held in Erzurum, Turkey, on a day where all the Canadian skaters reached the A or B finals.

St-Gelais (Saint-Félicien, QC) earned a silver medal in the women's 1500m, Saturday, to pick up the first World Cup medal of her career in that distance; Bradette (Saint-Félicien, QC) collected silver in the women's 1000m, which was also her first podium in that distance at a World Cup; and Boutin (Sherbrooke, QC), a rookie on the World Cup circuit this season, won her first career individual medal at that level with a bronze in the 1500m.

In the 1500m, St-Gelais spent a good part of the race at the back of the pack before attacking in the last lap. She ended up second as she overtook her teammate Boutin at the finish line. She finished the race in two minutes 28.913 seconds, ahead of Boutin (2:28.997). Italy's Arianna Fontana, bronze medalist in the 1500m at the Sochi Olympics, won it in 2:28.590.

St-Gelais was skating in her first 1500m this season, in order to prepare for the World Championships slated for March 13-15 in Moscow. She had finished third in that distance at the 2013 World Championships, but had never been on the podium at a World Cup.

“I decided that I would remain patient in my races, today, because I knew I have strong legs and can accelerate pretty well, which gives me the ability to come back at the end of races,” said St-Gelais. “It was a high-level semifinal, so it ended being a little tight when I did that, but I still was able to do it and I qualified for the final.”

“In the final, we were eight, and it started out fast. Nobody wanted to stay at the back, it seemed, so I pulled back, telling myself I would use the same strategy. With eight skaters, I knew there would be some action at some point and when it did happen, I was already preparing to overtake and going at full speed, so I took advantage of the situation, which allowed me to move ahead to fourth place with five laps to go. After that, I still felt good, so I was able to take advantage of the other skaters' fatigue.”

St-Gelais, who will turn 25 this Tuesday, therefore collected her eighth individual medal, and 11th overall, of the 2014-15 World Cup season. She has picked up at least one individual medal in each of the six World Cup stages this season. Four have been won in the 1000m and three in the 500m.

Boutin, for her part, earned her first career World Cup medal after finishing fourth in the 1500m, in December, at the Seoul World Cup.

“My only objective going into the final was to learn, but when I saw I was first with four laps to go, I told myself I had to keep it up,” said Boutin, age 20. “One lap and half from the end, I was still first but my old bad habits starting crawling back. I was overtaken by great skaters, so I'm still satisfied with my race. ”

“Kim did really well up in front, and I decided to overtake her on the outside to avoid getting in her way,” said St-Gelais of her decision to go by Boutin. “I'm happy she still ended up third.”

Valérie Maltais (Saguenay, QC) also reached Saturday's A final but was penalized during the race. She finished eighth overall.

Bradette's silver medal allowed her to post her best lifetime result in a 1000m raced at an ISU competition. This is her second career World Cup medal, as she collected a bronze in the 500m, earlier this season, in Shanghai.

Saturday, Bradette clocked a time of 1:32.346 to finish behind Great Britain's Elise Christie (1:31.513), the 1500m bronze medalist at the 2013 World Championships, and ahead of South Korea's Shim Suk Hee (1:32.659), bronze medalist in the 1000m at the Sochi Olympics.

“It's kind of strange considering I've never liked skating the 1000m. I've always had a mental block in terms of how I should approach it. But today, apparently things got unblocked!”, said Bradette. “I was able to do things I had never been able to do before. Some skaters got tangled up, but I was saved by the fact that I was able to remain focused, and to trust myself.”

Genève Bélanger (Montreal, QC), who is taking part in her second World Cup after making her debut last week in Dresden, Germany, finished second in the 1000m B final, for sixth place overall. She was racing for the first time in a 1000m event at a World Cup. She picked up her second top-10 result on the circuit, after finishing sixth in last weekend's 1500m.

With one day to go in the sixth and last World Cup stage of the 2014-15 season, the Canadian team has won a total of 24 medals, i.e. three gold, nine silver and 12 bronze.

The women's relay finished first in its heat in Saturday's semifinals, as St-Gelais, Maltais, Bradette and Boutin allowed Canada to qualify for Sunday's final.

A personal best for Duffy
On the men's side, Patrick Duffy (Oakville, ON) was the top Canadian with a fourth-place finish in the men's 1500m A final. The 23-year-old athlete therefore earned his best-ever result in a World Cup 1500m event. His previous best was eighth place in Shanghai, last December. This is the second time he has finished fourth at a World Cup, however, as he placed at that position in the 1000m raced at the 2014-15 season's first stage, in Salt Lake City.

Duffy raced Saturday's 1500m in 2:13.622 to finish behind Chinese skaters Han Tianyu (2:13.354) and Chen Dequan (2:13.448), as well as Russia's Victor An (2:13.576), in race that was held with nine skaters.

“I had never heard of a nine-man final before, so I asked my coach about the different options I should consider,” said Duffy. “I followed the strategy almost perfectly, although maybe it would have been better to move up at one point, instead of staying back. I had lost a bit of energy towards the end, so I was overtaken by the great Victor An... All in all, it was still a satisfying race for me.”

François Hamelin (Sainte-Julie, QC) and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) respectively finished first and fourth in the 1500m B final, for 10th and 13th place overall.

In the men's 1000m, Charles Hamelin (Sainte-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) respectively finished first and third in the B final, for sixth and eighth place overall.

Charles Hamelin will have another chance to pick up his sixth individual medal of the season, Sunday, when he will skate in the men's 500m alongside Olivier Jean, starting in the quarterfinals. Another 1000m will be held, as Bastille and Duffy have qualified for the men's quarterfinals. On the women's side, St-Gelais and Bradette earned their spot in the women's 500m quarterfinals, while in Sunday's 1000m, Maltais, Boutin and Bélanger will all be skating as of the quarterfinals.

TODAY'S CANADIAN RESULTS:
1000m W (1)
Kasandra Bradette: silver medal (final ranking: 2)
Genève Bélanger: 2nd in the B final (final ranking: 6)

1000m M (1)
Charles Hamelin: 1st in the B final ((final ranking: 6)
Olivier Jean: 3rd in the B final (final ranking: 8)

1500m W
Marianne St-Gelais: silver medal ((final ranking: 2)
Kim Boutin: bronze medal (final ranking: 3)
Valérie Maltais: penalty in the A final (final ranking: 8)

1500m M
Patrick Duffy: 4th in the A final (final ranking: 4)
François Hamelin: 1st in the B final (final ranking: 10)
Guillaume Bastille: 4th in the B final (final ranking: 13)

Women’s relay
Canada: 1st in the semi-finals and qualified for the A final Sunday (Valérie Maltais, Marianne St-Gelais, Kasandra Bradette, Kim Boutin)
                       
More information is available at 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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Jeff MacKinnon   
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