Rookies Girard & Boutin excel at Canadian Senior Short Track Speed Skating Championships & earn spot at World Championships

Rookies Samuel Girard and Kim Boutin earned the assurance that they will skate in the individual races alongside Olympians Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais at the upcoming ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Championships, in March, following the solid results they posted at this weekend's Canadian Short Track Speed Skating Senior Championships held at Maurice Richard Arena.

Girard and Boutin will both be taking part for the first time in the senior World Championships, set to take place this year in Moscow, March 13-15.

Girard, a 18-year-old skater from Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., finished second in overall standings behind Charles Hamelin, following this weekend, after qualifying for the A final in all four individual men's races held at the Canadian Championships. He earned a silver medal in Friday's 1500m race, a bronze in Saturday's 500m, in addition to ending up respectively 4th and 7th, Sunday, in the men's 1000m and 3000m events.

“I was aiming for a top-3 result this weekend, and it's quite satisfying to attain that objective. Finishing second is even better because it already assures me that I will be skating (in the individual races) in Moscow,” said Girard, who has done well so far at the international level, notably with a 5th-place finish in the 1500m event held at the Salt Lake City World Cup and a 6th position in the 1000m event in Seoul.

Boutin, a 20-year-old native of Sherbrooke, Que., earned the second best points total on the women's side, behind St-Gelais, with the help of her first-place finish in Sunday's 3000m race. She also ended up second in Friday's 1500m and fourth in Saturday's 500m.

“I wasn't expecting this,” said Boutin of her second-place finish in overall standings, although she did do well in the fall Worlds Cups, coming up with 4th place in the 1500m and 5th place in the 1000m at the Seoul World Cup in December. “It's going to be tough at the Worlds, it will be an endless battle to earn my place among the top skaters in the world.”

Charles Hamelin picked up his third Canadian title of the weekend, Sunday, when he won the men's 1000m race. He earned a silver medal in the men's 3000m. The veteran skater from Sainte-Julie, Que., also won Friday's 1500m and Saturday's 500m.

St-Gelais, of Saint-Félicien, Que., also came up with her third gold medal at these Canadian Championships, Sunday, when she won the women's 1000m. She had finished first in Friday's 1500m and Saturday's 500m.

“I had confidence in my abilities and I had good legs coming into the weekend, so I went for the win in every race,” said St-Gelais, who has picked up six individual medals and two team medals in the relay so far this World Cup season. “I ended up dominating this weekend, maybe, but it wasn't what I was aiming for. I was just looking to have good skates in every race, without necessarily going gor a particular time or rank.”

Charles Hamelin, Girard, St-Gelais and Boutin have all clinched a spot in the individual races scheduled at the World Championships. A total of three men and three women from each participating country will skate in the individual events.

Maltais, Bradette, Duffy and Bastille as well
Patrick Duffy of Oakville, ON, Guillaume Bastille of Rivière-du-Loup, QC, Kasandra Bradette of Saint-Félicien, QC, and Valérie Maltais of La Baie, QC, also earned their ticket to Moscow, Sunday, by taking up third and fourth places of the men's and women's overall standings, which were calculated by taking into account the results at the Canadian Championships (80%) as well as at the Fall World Cups Selections or National Qualifications (20%).

Duffy and Bradette both finished third in this weekend's overall standings and will both be taking part in the senior World Championships for the first time.

Duffy, a 23-year-old athlete, earned his spot by notably collecting a silver medal in the men's 1000m, Sunday. Bradette, a 25-year-old skater, also was third in the standings, after she finished third in Sunday's 1000m, as well as third in Saturday's 500m.

“I was super nervous before the Canadian Championships, I was asking myself if my success (at the World Cup) this fall was a bit of a fluke,” said Bradette, the winner of a bronze medal in the women's 500m at the Shanghai World Cup, in mid-December, who came back to the World Cup circuit this year after a first stint in 2011-12. “I ended up being quite consistent this weekend, and that's what allowed me to end up third in the standings.”

“Today was really a solid day, it allowed to break through and get on the podium, which goes to show it's never too late,” noted Duffy. “The fall World Cups really had an influence on how I approached the weekend, it allowed to keep my confidence at a good level.”

Maltais, from La Baie, Que., finished fourth overall on the women's side after posting two excellent results, Sunday. To close out the weekend, she won a silver medal in Sunday's 1000m and finished third in the 3000m.

“I knew I had to go for it today, even if I knew there were still half the events to race and that there was no point in giving up, all to the contrary. When I came to the rink (Sunday) morning, I was confident. I wasn't nervous at all,” said Maltais, who has won one bronze medal in the relay evant and one individual bronze medal in the 1000m so far this World Cup season.

On the men's side, Bastille grabbed the fourth place overall at the Canadian Championships, by a slim margin of only 15 points over François Hamelin, after finishing third in Sunday's 3000m.

“Fifteen points, it's almost nothing when you consider how many points are awarded for all the races,” noted Bastille. “Luckily for me, my girlfriend was counting the points for me and elaborated differents scenarios that needed to happen for me to come through. It helped me for sure!”

The four male skaters and four female skaters already qualified for the World Championships will also take part in the winter World Cups, set to take place in Dresden, Germany (Feb. 6-8) and Erzurum, Turkey (Feb. 13-15).

“(Girard and Duffy) gained a lot of experience in their first World Cups this fall, and it helped them come up with better performances at the Canadian Championships,” noted Charles Hamelin, who has won four individual medals and two team medals in the relay in the fall World Cups, when commenting the composition of the men's team so far. “It's not surprising to see them there. It's a good sign for the future, it shows that the next generation is coming up through the ranks.”

“I was pretty much expecting the standings to look like that,” said St-Gelais of the Canadian female quartet. “This is a team that looks a lot like the team we had this fall, and it's a team that gives me confidence, that has the talent to do well.”

Five men and five women from Canada overall will take part in the World Championships, while teams of six men and six women will go to the two winter World Cups. Other skaters will be added to the Canadian team through discretionary choices by Speed Skating Canada, to be announced soon.

Other skaters, as per eligibility rules, will be selected later on for the speed skating races to be held Feb. 8-10 at the winter Universiade in Granada, Spain.
 
Sunday's results
In the men's 1000m, Charles Hamelin won it in one minute 26.016 seconds, ahead of Duffy, second in 1:26.484, and François Hamelin, of Sainte-Julie, Que., third in 1:26.522.
 
In the men's 3000m, Charles Hamelin was second in 5:10.113, finishing behind the winner William Preudhomme (5:08.429), of Toronto, and ahead of Bastille, third in 5:10.259.
 
On the women's side, St-Gelais won the 1000m in 1:31.873 while Maltais was second in 1:31.969 and Bradette, third in 1:33.097.
 
In the women's 3000m, Boutin crossed the finish line in 5:04.760, ahead of Montreal's Genève Bélanger, second in 5:04.903 and Maltais, third in 5:05.336.
 
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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