A First for Makowsky, A Qualification for Hughes

Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK) climbed to the second step of the podium in the 1500m event this Saturday in Hamar, Norway at the long track speed skating World Cup. Clara Hughes (Glen Sutton, QC) and Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) finished fourth and fifth respectively in the 5000m event.

American Shani Davis won the men’s event in a time of 1:44.27, ahead of Makowsky by 1.13 seconds, and Norwegian Håvard Bøkko by 1.34 seconds. Mathieu Giroux (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) raced to ninth place, 2.44 seconds behind the winner.

Today’s results mean that Makowsky has now won his first World Cup medal – though he won’t be taking any hardware home this time; “They aren’t giving out medals, only flowers, so I won’t be leaving with a medal, but all the same I won’t forget this moment,” he noted, bemused.

Makoswky’s previous best in the 1500m event was eighth, “It was really an incredible sensation to step up onto the podium for the first time. I felt good at the starting line and I raced really well today,” he commented. “I skated a bit faster than than I wanted to in the begining, but I was able to maintain that rhythm until the end. That’s the reason why I was able to improve on my personal best time,” explained Makowsky.

“Sharing the podium with athletes like Shani Davis and Håvard Bøkko is pretty special, it shows that I’m progressing,” confirmed the native of Saskatchewan.

Still in the 1500m in Division B, Jeff Kitura (Langley, B.C.) came second with a time of 1:47.92; Keith Sulzer (Calgary, AB) came 19th in 1:50.17.

Qualified For Vancouver, Despite Everything!

In the women’s 5000m event, Czech skater Martina Sáblíková won gold in a time of 6:50.07, beating German skaters Stephanie Beckert (6:52.79) and Daniela Anschütz Thoms (6:59.62). Clara Hughes (Glen Sutton, QC) finished at 10.17 seconds from the winner, while Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) was at 11.41 seconds from Sáblíková.

The most important result from today’s 5000m race, was Hughes’s preselection for the event for the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Second in the World in the 5000m at last year’s World Championships, Hughes had to finish in the top six today to confirm her Olympic berth.

“That was in fact one of my goals this weekend, to ensure my qualification for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, so I’m really happy. Now I can relax a little bit, and train with some peace of mind.”

Ironically, the Québécois skater was almost unable to start her race, having forgotten her time transponder, a tiny unit that athletes wear around their ankles which transmits result times. Luckily, one of the Canadian coaches, was able to bring Hughes the precious device just in time.

Continuing the series of bizarre events, Hughes also cut a finger on her right hand removing ice from her skates right before the race. As a result, she had to take to the ice despite some bleeding.

“I was not as focused as I could have been! I realize that I still have some work to do in terms of being prepared for my race. I made some mistakes,” admitted Hughes.

In Division B in the 5000m, Nicole Garrido (Edmonton, AB) finished ninth with a time of 7:12.91, and Justine L’Heureux (St-Tite, QC) came 21st in 7:30.32.

Sunday the women will compete in the 1500m, while the men will tackle the 10 000m event.