Québec Dominates First Day of Short Track National Junior Championships

Ottawa, ON – Québec skaters dominated the first day of the short track National Junior Championships, with Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) and Maxime Fortin (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) in the lead after two distances.

On the women’s side, St-Gelais, who still has one more year left as a junior after this one, won both the 1500m and 500m races. “My goal was to be strong in all my races”, she said at the end of the day. It was a close one in the 500m, as the young skater fell at the third block and the race was re-called. “I was so happy that the race was called back and I still had a chance!”, explained St-Gelais, who had a really good race afterwards and took the lead with an outside pass on Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) with four laps to go. This is a new Canadian Junior record for St-Gelais, who crossed the line in 45.96 seconds. The old record of 46.342 belonged to Maltais.

It is also a fabulous outside pass of four skaters that permitted St-Gelais to win her 1500m final earlier in the day. “I didn’t necessarily thought I would win both distances today, but I knew I had to do well as there are only two spots left for women to qualify for the World Juniors”, added Marianne St-Gelais.

The top three male and female skaters from this weekend’s competition normally would form the team that will represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in Bolzano, Italy, on January 11-13. Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) is pre-qualified on the women’s side, due to her making the senior World Cup team this fall, so only two positions remain to be filled.

Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) is currently sitting second in the women’s rankings, after finishing second in both distances. Valérie Maltais and Laurie Marceau are tied for third, as Maltais was 3rd in the 500m and 4th in the 1500m and Marceau 4th in the 1500m and 3rd in the 500m.

In the men competition, Blais-Dufour and Fortin are currently tied for first place, as they each won one race and finished 2nd in the other. “I was really stressed coming in to this competition”, said Blais-Dufour, “I was seeded number 1, but I’ve always had bad luck in the junior championships in the past so I didn’t know what to expect. I was really happy to start with a win in the 1500m.” And it was a good way of breaking the ice for the young skater, who took the win due to a great outside pass with three laps remaining.

The men’s 500m final was another good race, with Guillaume Blais-Dufour and Maxime Fortin leading the way, and an inside pass of Fortin with a little over a lap to go gave him the victory.

Vincent Cournoyer, who finished third in both finals, is sitting in third position overall after this first day of races.

The team that will represent Canada at the World Junior Championships will be made official following the competition tomorrow. Skaters will first compete in the 1000m tomorrow morning, and the championships will end in the afternoon with the 1500m super final.