Rookies impress behind St-Gelais & Hamelin on first day of Canadian Senior Short Track Championships

As expected, Marianne St-Gelais and Charles Hamelin were both crowned 1500m national champions, Friday, at Montreal's Maurice-Richard Arena, but several rookies were able to grab choice spots on the podium on the first day of the Canadian Senior Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

St-Gelais, of Saint-Félicien, Que., won the women's 1500m race in two minutes and 24,532 seconds, to finish respectively in front of Kim Boutin (2:24.740), a 20-year-old skater from Sherbrooke, Que., and Audrey Phaneuf (2:24.947), a 18-year-old athlete from Boucherville.

Charles Hamelin, from Sainte-Julie, Que., won it on the men's side in 2:13.564, while 18-year-old athlete Samuel Girard (2:13.653), of Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., finished second in 2:13.653 and veteran Olivier Jean, of Lachenaie, Que., third in 2:14.709.

St-Gelais, who has collected six individual medals on the World Cup circuit so far this season, took adavantage of a tight battle up front during a turn between Boutin and Maltais just before the last two laps to move up from third place and skate to victory.

“I saw it develop right in front of me, so I was able to step in quickly and choose my spot,” said St-Gelais. “I'm satisfied with my race, I managed it well without losing too much energy.”

Maltais, a veteran skater and Olympian, had to settle for 6th place.

“I wanted be up front during the race and I was able to do that,” said Boutin of her 2nd-place finish. “As for the battle in the turn (with Maltais), these things happen when you try to overtake. But I'm happy about having come up with a solid race overall.”

Boutin has shown steady improvement in her first career World Cups, this fall, culminating with a 4th-place result in the 1500m raced in Seoul, South Korea, just before Christmas. Phaneuf is a also a World Cup rookie this season, her best result so far being a 9th place finish at the 3000m event in Seoul.

“I'm so happy, this is a result I didn't expect”, said Phaneuf. “I was fifth at a certain point during the final, but I saw that towards the end, some skaters were starting to slow down, while I sill had pace, so I was able to take advantage of that.”

Charles Hamelin win the men’s 1500m
In the men's 1500m, Charles Hamelin, who has picked up four individual medals so far this World Cup season, including two silver medals in the 1500m, took hold of first place with a few laps to go, after overtaking and being overtaken on a few occasions.

“There was a lot going on. The level was quite high in the final, with all seven skaters having the level it takes to win it,” said Hamelin. “I mostly tried to stay away from trouble.”

Girard, a World Cup rookie this season, showed that his 6th-place result earned in the 1000m at the Seoul World Cup was not a stroke of luck.

“I had the start I was looking for, and my goal was a top-3 result, so this is a good start to the weekend,” said Girard.

Jean also kicked off the weekend on a good note, earning third place after a hard battle in the middle of the pack. The 30-year-old skater is presently taking part in his first major competition this season. He only took part in training sessions with other national team members during the fall, opting out of international competition to invest more time in his studies.

“Things were going well in training, so finishing third wasn't a surprise for me. But it still gives me a boost of confidence for the rest of the competition. It showed me that I have good legs,” said Jean.

The women's and men's 500m races will take place Saturday afternoon at Maurice Richard Arena. Competition will start at 2:40 pm with the qualification rounds, followed by the quarterfinals, the semi-finals and both finals.
 
The men's and women's 1000m, 3000m and relay events will follow Sunday. Admission is $5 per day or $10 for the weekend.
 
The results from this weekend's Canadian Senior Championships will also count in qualification process for the 2015 Short Track World Championships, to be held March 13-15 in Moscow, for the two winter World Cups set to take place in February – in Dresden, Germany, Feb. 6-8, and Erzurum, Turkey, Feb. 13-15, or for the short track events to be contested Feb. 8-10 at the Winter Universiade in Granada, Spain.
 
Athletes will be selected based on the overall standings from the weekend's races, with results calculated in combination with those earned at the Fall World Cup Selections or at the National Qualifier.
 
RDS is webcasting the entire competition of the Canadian Senior Short Track Speed Skating Championships, in collaboration with TVGO. Fans are invited to go on the www.rds.ca/amateurs/courte-piste, as per the competitions schedule held live at Maurice-Richard Arena.
 
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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For information:
Patrick Godbout
Communications & Media Relations Manager
Speed Skating Canada
Email: pgodbout@speedskating.ca
Phone: 514 213-9897
Website: www.speedskating.ca 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SSC.PVC
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SSC_PVC

Jeff MacKinnon   
Coordinator, Media and Communications Services – long track
Speed Skating Canada
Email: jmackinnon@speedskating.ca
Phone: 403-860-9525
Website: www.speedskating.ca 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SSC.PVC
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SSC_PVC