Short Track Speed Skaters Nominated to Vancouver 2010 Canadian Olympic Team

At a press conference in Montréal, today, Speed Skating Canada (SSC) nominated 10 short track speed skaters to the Canadian Olympic Committee for participation in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. This nomination followed a 10-day Olympic Selection competition held at the Pacific Coliseum, the 2010 Olympic venue for short track speed skating.

“An Olympic selection process doesn’t last only 10 days, but a full three years,” explained Yves Hamelin, Olympic Team Leader for short track speed skating. “It all started right after the 2006 Turin Olympic Winter Games, with a four-year plan designed to optimize our preparation for 2010. Every day, I see talented and dedicated athletes and coaches working hard and together with one goal in mind: contributing to the optimal preparation of our Olympic team. Today, I am proud to introduce you to the ten athletes who will be representing us in Vancouver, and I am confident that they will offer great performances and will once again give everything they can on the ice of the Pacific Coliseum in February 2010.”

Many nominations have been known for some time now, as athletes first had a chance to pre-qualify based on their results at the 2009 World Short Track Championships, and then qualify strictly with their performance at the Bell Short Track Team Selection.

The women’s team will show a good balance of veterans and young up and comers. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) was the first athlete to qualify, by winning the 1000m and 1500m distances at the Team Selections. She was then joined by Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and 19-year old Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) who finished first and second respectively in the 500m. Gregg comes from an Olympic family so to speak, as her parents met when competing in hockey and speed skating at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. St-Gelais is the current World Junior Champion and World Junior Record holder in the 500m.

Last but not least, veteran Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) qualified based on her combined 500m and 1000m results. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be her fourth, and after winning three medals in the relay, she will be leading the young women crew to their best performance ever. The High Performance Short Track Committee (HPSTC) then had to add the fifth member to the team based on a discretionary position. Their vote went to Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC), a young skater full of talent, who skated in both the junior and senior World Championships last season, winning a bronze medal in each event (junior – 500m; senior – relay).

On the men’s side, the leader of the team has been known since last March, when his third place finish overall confirmed that Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) would be able to skate in the Olympics. He was part of the 2006 Olympic Team, where he finished 4th in the 1500m and helped his team to a silver medal in the relay. Over the last three seasons, he won no less than 29 medals in world cups and is the current 500m World Champion and 1000m World Record holder.

Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) was the second member to secure his ticket for Vancouver, by winning both the 500m and 1000m events at the Bell Short Track Team Selections. Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) followed suit in the 1500m, and both skaters will take part in their first Olympic experience in 2010.

Not fully recovered from an ankle injury, François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) was not able to skate at the selection event, but he was granted a bye from the HPSTC. He was the only male individual medallist from short track in Turin (silver in the 500m), and has won 14 medals in 16 World Cup races in the 500m over the last three years. He is also a three-time World Cup Champion in the distance. Last but not least, François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) was granted the discretionary position from the HPSTC, following a solid performance in the three distances at the selection event.

"As Chef de Mission for the Canadian Olympic Team in 2010, I am proud of each of the men and women being nominated to the Team today,” said Nathalie Lambert who participated in today’s press conference. “Canada's short track speed skating program is recognized as one of the best in the world, in large part due to the World records, World Cup and World Championship titles won by some of the athletes on this National team. The performances and results of these ten athletes over the last three years show that they will be major contributors to Canada's goal of being number one in 2010.”

The athletes will now train in their respective training centres for the next two weeks before they head to Asia where they will skate in the first two World Cup events of the season. They will be back in Canada at the end of September, preparing for the third stop of the World Cup Circuit, to be held at the Maurice-Richard Arena. The Montreal event, along with the fourth World Cup, will be of significant importance for the team as their results will confirm how many berths skaters will have for each individual distance at the Olympic Winter Games.