Three Short Track Canadian Medals in Dresden

Despite having a reduced team of ten because of small injuries to two athletes, Canadian short track speed skaters captured three medals today at the Dresden World Cup. Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) continued her golden streak to win her fourth 500m race this season. Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) added a silver in the 1500m and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) a bronze in the same distance.

St-Gelais has won each of her 500m races so far this season, but because she has missed two World Cup events, she is currently second in the World Cup rankings with one race left to be skated tomorrow in Dresden. A victory tomorrow would however confirm her dominance in the distance and give her the World Cup Championship.

Once again, St-Gelais was placed first on the line as she had achieved the fastest time in the previous round. “I had a good start and took the lead, never to look back,” she explained. She won the race in 43.237, edging out Liu Qiuhong of China, who crossed the finish line in 43.414. Martina Valcepina of Italy won bronze for the second weekend in a row, in a time of 44.252, and Jessica Smith of the USA finished fourth in 44.253.

“I think this was my fastest time ever, better than in Vancouver, so I’m pretty happy,” continued Marianne St-Gelais. “Tomorrow, I’m hoping to do the same. There’s not really any strategy in the 500m, you just want to have the fastest time in order to have a good place at the start line.”

Caroline Truchon (Chicoutimi, QC) was the only other Canadian to race the 500m today, and she was eliminated in quarter finals, for 9th place.

Marie-Ève Drolet was next to race in a final. “I had a good strategy,” she said afterwards. “With three Koreans and two Americans in the race with me, I knew she would start fighting, start fast and make many passes. I figured I would just stay back and keep my energy. With three laps to go, I gave everything I had, I went outside and took the lead.” In the end, Korean Yang Shin-Young passed Drolet to capture the gold in 2:21.724. Drolet finished second in 2:21.813, leaving Korean Hwang Hyunsun far behind for bronze (2:24.917).

Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) finished second in the B Final, for 8th place, and Valérie Maltais was penalized for impeding in her semi-final, and she finds herself 20th overall.

On the men side, Gilday added a bronze medal to his collection in the 1500m, where he already captured two medals earlier this season. There were two Canadian skaters in today’s final, featuring no less than eight skaters.

“With eight skaters in the final, both Guillaume and I wanted to be up towards the front in order to stay out of traffic,” said Gilday. “I got bumped back a bit early in the race, and when I went to move up, I had a lot of speed, but the French skater ran into me, so I lost a lot of speed. The race was going fast and I was just trying to catch up the Korean and two Chinese in front of me after that. I managed to pass one of the Chinese skaters in the last lap to get third, but this wasn’t really my best race,” concluded Gilday, who felt he had the legs to go for gold today.

Liu Xianwei of China ended up winning gold in 2:16.962, followed by Korean Lee Ho-Suk (2:17.176). Gilday took the bronze when he crossed the finish line in 2:17.378, while Bastille was just behind in 2:17.571. Guillaume Blais-Dufour saw his day end in the repechage final, for 26th place.

In the men’s 500m, Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) was the top Canadian when he finished second of the B Final, good for 6th place. Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) was eliminated in the repechage final, for 17th position.

To put a positive end to the day of racing, the two Canadian relay teams were able to qualify for tomorrow’s final. Drolet, Hewitt, Maltais and St-Gelais joined forces for the women, who finished second in their semi-final behind the American Team. Moments later, Bastille, Beaulieu, Gilday and Jean won their semi-final ahead of the Chinese.

The 2010-11 World Cup racing will end tomorrow in Dresden, with the last 500m, 1000m and relay races of the season in World Cups. Athletes will then turn their focus to the World Short Track Championships scheduled for March 11-13 in Sheffield, Great Britain.

Summary of Canadian performances :

500m F : Marianne St-Gelais – gold; Caroline Truchon – 9
500m M : Olivier Jean – 6; Rémi Beaulieu – 17
1500m F : Marie-Ève Drolet – silver; Jessica Hewitt – 8; Valérie Maltais – 20
1500m M : Michael Gilday – bronze; Guillaume Bastille – 4; Guillaume Blais-Dufour – 26