Speed Skating Canada Rewards Deserving Athletes & Volunteers

Speed Skating Canada has rewarded this year’s most deserving athletes and volunteers at the SSC Intact Gala held at the beautiful Hilton Lac Leamy, tonight. The organization holds its award ceremony each year during the course of its Annual General Meeting in order to celebrate the successes of the past season and thank those who made a difference To the Relentless Pursuit of Excellence, from coast to coast to coast.

Speed Skating Canada started the evening with a tribute to its 2010 Olympic Athletes, Coaches, Officials and Volunteers, who helped make this year memorable. Not only did SSC’s teams capture 10 Olympic medals, including 4 gold, but it was also represented with close to 30 officials in Vancouver.

National Team members Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) and Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) were all named Skaters of the Year, respectively for Short Track and Long Track, Male and Female. Hamelin was the only double gold medalist for Team Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games last February, winning the title of Olympic Champion in the 500m and the relay. He also finished on top of the World Cup rankings in the 500m. Hamelin has been a strong leader on Canada’s short track team for many years now, winning the Male Athlete of the Year title for the fourth year in a row. Marianne St-Gelais captured the heart of Canada when she herself won two silver medals in Vancouver, also in the 500m and relay events. Not only did her performance inspire, but her genuine smile and radiant personality made her one of the most recognizable and charming athletes at the Games. Following the Olympics, she proved that it was not by chance that she stepped on the podium when she captured a bronze medal in the same distance at the World Championship.

In long track speed skating, Kristina Groves once again had a very strong season, during which she captured two Olympic medals, silver in the 1500m and bronze in the 3000m, finished second at the World All Round Championships, and was crowned World Cup Champion in the 1500m and Team Pursuit. Morrison bounced back from a tough start at the Olympics by winning gold with Canada’s Team Pursuit on the last day of competition. He also won four individual medals on the World Cup circuit, finishing 3rd overall in the 1500m and 5th in the 1000m. Morrison became the first recipient of the newly named Jeremy Wotherspoon Award, formerly the Male Long Track of the Year Trophy, that was renamed following Wotherspoon’s retirement announcement in order to honour his long and successful career.

Two rising stars are normally recognized at the event, one in long track and one in short track speed skating. This year, both awards went to the same skater. Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu (Sherbrooke, QC) showed he has a great future ahead when he finished 2nd overall at the Short Track World Junior Championship, capturing three individual silver medals and one more in the relay, and following a month later with two bronze medals and a third place overall at the Long Track World Junior Championships. This is the first year that both awards are presented to the same skater.

The dedicated work of many volunteers was also recognized at this 123rd SSC AGM Gala. Other people recognized were:

Coaching Excellence Awards: recipients of the award this year were Frédéric Blackburn of Québec, David Gilday of the Northwest Territories and Peter Steele of New Brunswick.

Outstanding Administrator Award – Peter Dankers, Alberta: a former Board member of SSC, he has been involved for many years with the Alberta Speed Skating Organization and the Calgary Speed Skating Association. For the last two years, he was a leader with SSC’s Inuksuk Initiatives, helping develop an artistic program for SSC in Vancouver.

René Marleau Official of the Year Award – Guy Marcoux, Québec: He has been officiating in short and long track speed skating since the 1970s and has worked at over 200 competitions since. He was selected to be a starter for the Olympics in Vancouver, his third as an official. He greatly contributed to the development of speed skating officials by participating in numerous clinics at the provincial, national and international level.

The Gagné Family Award went to the Lambert family of Québec. It is awarded to a family that has made an outstanding contribution to the development of the sport of speed skating. The Lambert Family has literally led short track speed skating in Montreal from the mid-70s to the 1990s. They helped create the Montréal-International Speed Skating Club, and helped bring the first international sized ice surface in the province of Québec at the Maurice-Richard Arena, where our Short Track National Team trains to this day.

The Jean Grenier Award, presented to an individual that has assisted the sport of speed skating in Canada as a volunteer, for a long period, went to Michel Verrault of Lac-Beauport, Québec. Verrault officiated in his fifth Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, becoming the first ever short track Chief Referee officiating at home Olympics. He was honoured to be selected to read the Official’s Oath at the Opening Ceremony. The official has been a leader for over 30 years now, and is known as one of the best referees in the world. Through the years, he also greatly contributed to the development of officials by organizing many clinics for international officials.

The province of Québec earned the Pat Underhill Shield as the top short track province at the various national events, while Manitoba was awarded the Doreen Ryan Shield, as the top long track province at the various national events.

The recipients of the Peter Williamson Bursary, a bursary for promising skaters who best combine athletic and scholastic achievements, were short trackers Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) and Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC), as well as long track skaters François-Olivier Roberge (St-Nicolas, QC) and Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK).