Small Canadian Team at Dresden Short Track World Cup

Of the twelve canadian short track skaters who made the trip to Dresden, Germany, in order to compete in the last stop of the World Cup Circuit, only ten will be able to skate this weekend. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Maxime Fortin (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) were hoping to fight for a spot on the podium, but they will have to cheer on their teammates instead. Gregg had a small concussion when she fell in training on Thursday, and Fortin did the same in the second 500m race today.

They should have many reasons to cheer, however, as the rest of the team had a great qualification day today in Dresden. Three skaters will have to go through the repechage rounds Saturday in order to move on, but all other canadians were able to qualify straight to the quarter and semi final rounds.

On the men side, the first 500m event was the most challenging for Team Canada, when Fortin fell in his second race and learnt he would have to sit out the rest of the competition. The next Canadian skater at the start line was Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC), coming off a strong first round. Beaulieu also had a fall however, which prevented him from moving forward to the quarter finals, and he will have to skate in tomorrow’s repechage.

Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) will get up with Beaulieu tomorrow morning to skate in the 1500m repechage rounds. Facing a very tough heat with Korean Lee Ho-Suk and American Jeff Simon, Blais-Dufour had to settle for third place. “This is actually good for Guillaume, he had a tough race but did extremely well, and going through the repechage is a good way to learn,” summed up Team Leader Yves Hamelin.

Later in the day, Blais-Dufour went on to finish second in his first 500m race, and third of his next heat, but his time was fast enough for him to qualify for Sunday’s quarter final. Beaulieu will also race in Sunday’s 500m quarter finals, after he finished second of both his races.

Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) had a very strong day, winning all four races he entered, in the 500m and 1000m. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) did the same in the 1000m and 1500m.

“Olivier and Michael will be two men to watch this weekend. They raced exceptionally well today, and were never threatened in any of their races,” continued Hamelin. “It will be very interesting to see them race in quarter and semi finals this weekend. Today, Michael showed he was even stronger than he was last week when he won a bronze medal. He performed some very well prepared outside passes with a lot of speed.”

Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) also had a strong showing today, taking second place in all three of his races – one 1500m and two 1000m – enough to secure his place in semi and quarter final rounds.

On the women’s side, Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) remained strong and won all four 500m races she entered today, posting the two fastest times of the day and ensuring her place at the quarter final start line in the distance both Saturday and Sunday. Teammate Caroline Truchon (Chicoutimi, QC) will have to go through the repechage tomorrow with hopes to join her in the afternoon races. For Sunday’s event, however, both Truchon and Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) will be alongside St-Gelais in the 500m quarter finals.

Hewitt will also get to race tomorrow’s 1500m semi final, as will Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) and Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC), as all three skaters finished second in their respective heat today. Later in the day, Maltais and Drolet went on to qualify for the 1000m quarter finals as well, to be raced Sunday.

“Our women raced very well today,” commented Yves Hamelin. “Marianne has been very consistent. She is in her comfort zone. Caroline is also very consistent, after a small disappointment when she finished last of her second 500m race, she came back strong with good speed to win the next race she entered. Valérie is just coming back to racing after two months off because of an ankle sprain, and she’s fully back, making good decisions, managing the right passes at the right time. It’s very encouraging for the rest of the weekend.”

Both of Canada’s relay teams easily qualified for tomorrow’s semi-finals. Hewitt, Maltais, St-Gelais and Truchon teamed up for the women, while Bastille, Blais-Dufour, Gilday and Jean made up the men’s team for today’s qualification race.

Athletes will take part in the 500m quarter, semi and finals tomorrow, as well as the 1500m semi and finals and the relay semi-finals. Competition ends on Sunday in Dresden.