Two more world titles & a world record for Canada at short track speed skating world championships

Canada swept the relay gold medals including a world record performance for the men on Sunday at the short track speed skating world championships while Francois-Louis Tremblay of Boucherville, Que., finished third overall.

Canada is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the men’s relay but claimed its first world title since 1998. It’s the first world crown for the women’s relay since 1997 and the first time since 1984 that both the men and women swept relay golds at the same worlds.

Canada ends the competition three gold, two silver and a bronze, its best medal showing at the worlds since 2001 and its most gold since 1998. South Korea led the medal standings including six gold.

In the men’s 5,000-metre relay, Canada and South Korea battled for victory in a thrilling finale to the meet, building up the tempo steadily over the 45 laps in front of hundreds of cheering South Korean fans.

With the U.S. and China far behind, the lead shifted repeatedly on the final three laps, until Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., dipped inside his South Korean rival to snatch the win by a mere 0.03 seconds for a new world record of 6:39.990. The Koreans were second in 6:40.020 and the U.S., third in 6:50.072. The South Koreans held the previous mark of 6:42.893 set in Oct. 2003.

The other Canadian skaters were Tremblay, Steve Robillard of Montreal and Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que.

“We were happy to get the gold but when we saw we broke the world record by three seconds we went crazy,” said Hamelin. “It was unbelievably exciting race. Canada’s strength in the relay is its depth. We have eight guys who are capable of coming to the worlds and winning the relay gold. Our little recent drought at the worlds in the relay was also a big motivator. Now we hold the world , Olympic and team worlds relay titles.”

‘’We didn't actually prepare to beat the world record, we just wanted to beat the Koreans because we knew they would be there at the end," added Tremblay.

Canada also won a controversial women's 3,000 relay final that saw both South Korea – which crossed the finish line first- and Japan disqualified. Japan was penalized for failing to touch, while judges ruled a South Korean skater had impeded China's Yang Yang, causing a collision that sent former Olympic gold medalist Yang skidding across the ice at Capital Gymnasium.

The Canadians played it smart and prevailed in 4:18.889 with Chantale Sévigny of Sherbrooke, Que., Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., Tania Vicent of Montreal and Kalyna Roberge of Levis, Que. China was second in 4:19.972.

‘’In a relay it’s the team that makes the less mistakes that wins,’’ said Vicent, who nearly fell on her first exchange. ‘’It’s a real thrill to win because it’s been awhile since the women won relay gold. We showed a lot of fight and never gave up even when we fell behind. We were expecting an intense race but the Chinese and Koreans just couldn’t put it together.’’

In the men's overall standings, South Korean Ahn Hyun-soo edged out American Apolo Anton Ohno, the 1,000 and 3,000 winner on Sunday, to take gold for the third straight year. Tremblay, the leader after the first two days, was third for Canada’s first overall medal since 2001.

‘’I’m satisfied with my weekend but obviously considering I went into the last day with a chance to win it all there is a bit of a disappointment too,’’ said Tremblay, the 500 winner on Saturday and second in the 1,500 on Friday. ‘’I felt more fatigue than pressure and the (individual) races just didn’t go my way.’’

Other Canadian results Sunday: for the men Hamelin, the 500 runner-up Saturday, was fourth in both the 1,000 and 3,000 as well as in the overall standings. Tremblay was fifth in the 3,000 and seventh in the 1,000. Turcotte was ninth in the 1,000 and ninth overall.

For the women: Amanda Overland of Cambridge, Ont., was fourth in the 1,000, sixth in the 3,000 and eighth overall. Kraus was 12th in the 1,000 and 10th overall and Roberge 13th in the 1,000 and 15th overall.