Samuel Girard, Genève Bélanger & Audrey Phaneuf to lead Canadian Short Track Speed Skating team at World Junior Championships

Members of the national short track speed skating team who took part in the 2014-15 ISU World Cup season this fall and this winter, Samuel Girard, Genève Bélanger and Audrey Phaneuf, will lead Canada at the World Junior Championships, set to take place from Feb. 27 to March 1 in Osaka, Japan.

They will headline a Canadian team that will also be comprised of Sasha Alexander Fathoullin (Calgary, AB), Maxime Laoun (Montréal, QC, borough Rosemont - La Petite-Patrie) and Sébastien Gagnon (Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, QC) on the men's side, as well as of Alyson Charles (Montréal, QC, borough Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension) and Rosalie Tremblay (Saint-Félicien, QC) in the women's competition.

Fathoullin, the 2015 Canadian junior champion with three gold medals and one silver, Girard and Laoun will take part in individual races, as will Phaneuf and Bélanger, the national junior cochampions, and Tremblay on the women's side.

The team will be coached by five-time Olympic medalist Marc Gagnon and by Jeffrey Scholten.

Girard to strive for World Championship title
Samuel Girard (Ferland-et-Boilleau, QC) will try to become the first Canadian skater since François-Louis Tremblay in 1998 to win the overall title. He finished fourth last year in Erzurum, Turkey, on his way to the best performance by a Canadian athlete.

“My ultimate goal is to go and win the world title, but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. When you put too much emphasis on something like that, that's when bad breaks and mistakes happen,” said the 18-year-old skater, who also earned second place in the men's 500m and 1500m races last year.

Contrary to last year, when he took part in the first international competition of his career, Girard will this time be able to draw from the experience he gained in the five ISU World Cups he skated in this season.

“Since the month of August, I was able to train a lot more in terms of volume. My training regimen has picked up as a member of the national team and I have much better tools this year as compared to last year,” pointed out Girard, who finished fourth in the men's 1500m at the Dresden World Cup and fifth in Salt Lake City, in addition to a sixth-place result in the 1000m skated in Seoul. He also finished second behind veteran Charles Hamelin at the Canadian Senior Championships and at the Fall World Cup Trials.

“All this helped me improve my decision-making during races and, I hope, it will also allow me to improve on my results,” he added. “I want to show I've made progress. I've done well so far at the senior level and I want to continue in the same vein.”

Genève Bélanger (Montreal, QC) and Audrey Phaneuf (Boucherville, QC) also acquired additional international experience in World Cups this season.

Bélanger, who will turn 18 on Saturday, skated in her first two career World Cups in Germany and Turkey, earlier this month. She was able to earn a spot in two A finals and two B finals in four races. She also collected her first two medals on the international scene, gold and bronze, with the women's relay. She took part in the 2013 World Junior Championships, where her ninth-place finish in the 500m turned out to be the top Canadian individual performance on the women's team.

As for Phaneuf, age 18, this will be the fourth time she will participate. As did Girard and Bélanger, she skated in her first World Cups this season, in her case in Shanghai, Seoul and Dresden. Her best individual result was a eight-place finish in the 500m, while she also earned gold and bronze with the women's relay.

Girard, Bélanger, Phaneuf and other members of the Canadian team will try to earn a podium in overall standings at the World Junior Championships for the first time since Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu won silver in 2010 in Taipei. On the women's side, Jessica Gregg is the last Canadian to have earned such a medal, in 2006 in Romania.

Canada has crowned three female junior world champions over the years, i.e. Kalyna Roberge (2005) and Marie-Ève Drolet (2000 and 2001). In the men’s side, François-Louis Tremblay won the world junior title in 1998 as did Jean-François Monette in 1996.

In 21 editions of the Short Track Speed Skating World Junior Championships so far, Canada has won 29 medals, i.e. five gold, eight silver and 16 bronze.

Last year, the only Canadian medal at the World Junior Championships was won by the women's relay (silver).

More information, including the complete schedule, can be found on 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