Roberge & Giroux take first gold medals at Short Track Team Selection

The 2007-08 short track speed skating season was officially kicked off today, as the top Canadian skaters competed in the National Team Selection at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) and Mathieu Giroux (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) finished first in the 1500m races, thus qualifying for the World Cup Team heading to Asia this fall.

Competition was fierce on the men’s side, and the final was a fast race, Giroux finishing in 2:10.930, hundredths of a second short of the World Record (2:10.639). He finished just 0.05 seconds ahead of Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), who dominated the Canadian circuit last season. Steve Robillard (Montréal, QC) was third while Jonathan Guilmette (Montréal, QC) finished fourth.

Giroux raced well all day, winning all of his heats. “I’m happy with the way I raced”, he said after the competition. “The 1500m is my best distance, so I really wanted to do well. I felt confident coming into the competition, the summer training went well and I was prepared. This is overall the best shape we have been in for a September.”

Kalyna Roberge started the new season just like she finished the last one, with a victory. “I felt in control during the whole competition”, explained Roberge following her victory. “It was a good race. It would have been better without the fall, as it would have pushed us all harder in the end, but I’m happy I won.” Having experienced skaters like Tania Vicent (Verchères, QC) and Alanna Kraus (Abbotsford, BC) back makes a difference, especially for the younger skaters who did well last year while Vicent and Kraus were sidelined due to injuries.

Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) finished 2nd just behind Roberge, followed by Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC)¸Tania Vicent, Amanda Overland (Montréal, QC) and Nita Avrith (Montréal, QC). Avrith and Overland were 2nd and 3rd respectively with just about two laps to go, when Overland tried to pass and their blades touched, bringing them both down.

The victories ensure a spot on the Fall World Cup Team for Giroux and Roberge. They will be joined by the winners of the 500m race (tomorrow, starting at noon at the Olympic Oval) and the 1000m race (Sunday, starting at 10am), as well as the best overall ranked skater(s) not already selected to go. The 5th and 6th places on the team will be filled by the High Performance Short Track Committee.

“I’m taking one race at a time”, said Roberge when asked about her expectations for tomorrow, with the 500m being known as her strongest distance. “This is the first race of the season, so the adaptation for the quick speed is tough, it’s a much more risky race, but I look forward to it.”

Skaters will be back on the ice at noon tomorrow at the Olympic Oval, for the 500m races, which should be very exciting. Many athletes have a chance to gain their own place on the World Cup Team so we can expect them to give everything they have.