Without Surprise, Roberge & Hamelin Win the 500m at the Canadian Open Championships

Montréal, January 19, 2008 – Current World Champions in the 500m Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) and Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) showed that they were in great shape, today, by winning the 500m at the Canadian Open Championships in Montreal. With one day left in the event, both athletes are now first in the overall Canadian rankings.

Just like yesterday, Roberge was able to finish first by winning all of her heats, dominating all but the final, which was a close race. “I wanted fast races today, as it’s always fast in World Cups,” explained the athlete. “My goal was to go below 44 seconds.”

Roberge finally won in 44.42, with Edmonton’s Jessica Gregg right behind her (44.56). Gregg, as usual, started very fast, but Roberge stuck behind her for three and a half laps before making a beautiful inside pass to win the race. “Starting third was a huge obstacle for me,” continued Roberge. “I’m not the strongest when it comes to the start, so I was very nervous. Jessica did great by getting out of the blocks first. That’s what I wanted, but then I wasn’t able to pass her, up until the last lap.”

The battle was also fierce for third place, and Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) managed to pass Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) and win by one hundredth of a second at the finish line.

For Canadian men, the 500m always shows very close races, and today was no exception, with many exciting performances by the athletes. The final was however uneventful, no one being able to find room to pass, and Hamelin won the race in 41.91, followed by Jean-François Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) in 41.96. Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC), who is having a great weekend to date, Steve Robillard (Montréal, QC) and Rémi Beaulieu rounded up the top five.

“My goal this weekend was to win all three distances,” explained Hamelin after his victory. “I was somewhat frustrated after my disqualification yesterday, and I really wanted to win the other two distances.” Mission accomplished for today for the Ste-Julie athlete. “Tomorrow, I want to stay focused just like I did today, and to race in front in order to avoid traffic. I feel better than I did last Fall in Calgary, more confident.”

The overall ranking of this Championships, combined with the first Team Selection that was held in Calgary in September of 2007, will be used to determine the teams that will represent Canada in the last two World Cups of the circuit (the next one will be held in Québec City from February 1-3), as well as at the World Championships in March.

Kalyna Roberge is now sure to finish first on the women side, but the rest of the rankings are tight. Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) is currently second, but she is closely followed by Anne Maltais, Valérie Lambert, Amanda Overland (Montréal, QC) and Jessica Gregg, who could all get their ticket to the World Championships tomorrow.

On the men side, nothing is set in stone, but Hamelin is currently first, followed by Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC), his brother Jean-François, Guillaume Bastille, Michael Gilday of the Northwest Territories and Steve Robillard.

Competition ends tomorrow, with the 1000m starting at 9:30am at the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal. Teams that will represent Canada at the last international competitions of the season will be announced this week.