Audrey Phaneuf collects silver medal in women's 500m at Short Track Speed Skating World Junior Championships

Audrey Phaneuf (Boucherville, QC) won the silver medal in the women's 500m, Saturday, on the second day of the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Junior Championships held until Sunday in Osaka, Japan.

Canada therefore won a medal in the women's 500m at the World Junior Championships for the first time since 2009. That year in Sherbrooke, Marianne St-Gelais earned gold and Valérie Maltais, bronze.

In Saturday's final, Phaneuf finished only eight thousandths of a second behind the winner, South Korea's Son Hakyung (45.467), with a time of 45.475 seconds. Russia's Emina Malagich was third in 45.583.

Earlier in the day, Phaneuf finished fifth in the 1500m semifinals and was eliminated from the final.

“I'm extremely happy with my silver medal in today's 500m,” said the 18-year-old skater who, last year, had finished 14th in that distance after being eliminated in the quarterfinals. “It's all the more rewarding to be linked to Marianne and Valérie. It seems to me that our junior development program is getting better and better, and that we are more ready than ever to compete at the international level.”

“I had a tough start to the day with the 1500m, and it was hard to get back my confidence in time for the final rounds in the 500m because the 1500m is my specialty,” added Phaneuf. “The 500m semifinal was very tough mentally. I knew I could do it, but the stress overwhelmed all the rest. I finally was able to get over it and win my race.”

“In the final, I was able to have a good approach to the race with the help of coach Marc Gagnon. I had to focus on what I needed to do, and not on the result. I had a calm skate and I tried overtaking only at the finish line. I'm very happy with my skate and today, I learned a lot for the future.”

Genève Bélanger (Montreal, QC), for her part, finished second in the 500m B final for sixth place overall in that distance. In the 1500m, she was penalized in the B final and finished 14th overall.

“I'm pretty much satisfied with my 500m even if I made a mistake in the semifinals,” said Bélanger, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Saturday. “As for the 1500m, I'm very disappointed. It was quite tough physically in the semifinal and I got caught up with other skaters who made poor decisions overtaking. In the final, I was the one who was penalized, but I believe it was the other skater who was at fault.”

Bélanger, Phaneuf, Alyson Charles (Montreal, QC) and Rosalie Tremblay (Saint-Félicien, QC) then allowed the women's relay to qualify for Sunday's A final by finishing second in their heat in the semifinal, behind Russia.

“It went well today and our performance was similar to yesterday’s. The ice was nicer and we all had a little more confidence,” noted Genève Bélanger. “We tried a new strategy in the relay and it worked out well.”

In Sunday's final, Canada, which won the silver medal last year, will be up against South Korea, Russia and Japan.

A day to forget on the men's side
On the men's side, Samuel Girard (Ferland-et-Boilleau, QC) had to withdraw from Saturday's races, as he was bothered by a stomach flu that also affected other participants in the competition. His absence automatically led to Canada's elimination in the men's relay.

Sasha Alexander Fathoullin (Calgary, AB) was the top Canadian male skater of the day, Saturday, as he finished seventh overall in both the 500m and 1500m events.

Fathoullin, age 19 and the reigning Canadian junior champion, respectively finished first and third in the 500m and 1500m B finals.

"I think I had a valuable day," pointed out Fathoullin, whose best result so far in three World Junior Championships had been a 15th-place finish in the 500m in 2013. "Today, I learned what I needed to in order to race well and complete my goals. I would not have learned as much about myself if it went perfectly. For that, I'm happy."
"But in the 1500m semifinals, I did not do what I knew I should have done in order to win or qualify," added Fathoullin. "In the 500m, I felt as if I lost my edge. I was slipping each corner, not being able to grip and hook, which is essential for a sprint."

Maxime Laoun (Montreal, QC), who sprained his left foot on Friday, was able to skate and he finished fourth in the 1500m B final. He had to settle for 55th place overall in the 500m after ended up third in his heat in the morning preliminary ranking races.

Sunday, on the last day of competition, the ranking races and final rounds of the 1000m will take place, as will the 1500m super-final, to be contested between the male and female skaters who finished in the top-six overall following the 500m, 1000m and 1500m races. The Canadian team will also be taking part in the women's relay.

More information, including the complete schedule, can be found on Speed Skating Canada’s website:
500m W
Audrey Phaneuf: silver medal (overall ranking: 2)
Genève Bélanger: 2nd in the B final (overall ranking: 6)
Rosalie Tremblay: did not finish in the prelims rounds and eliminated (overall ranking: 48)
500m M
Sasha Alexander Fathoullin: 3rd in the B final (overall ranking: 7)
Samuel Girard: withdraw in the quarterfinals (overall ranking: 15)
Maxime Laoun: 3rd in the prelims ranking race (overall ranking: 55)
1500m W
Genève Bélanger: penalty in the B final and eliminated (overall ranking: 14)
Audrey Phaneuf: 5th in the semifinals and eliminated (overall ranking: 15)
Rosalie Tremblay: did not finish in the prelims rounds and eliminated (overall ranking: 46)
1500m M
Sasha Alexander Fathoullin: 1st in the B final (overall ranking: 7)
Maxime Laoun: 4th in the B final (overall ranking: 10)
Samuel Girard: penalty in the quarterfinals and eliminated (overall ranking: 37)
Relay W
Canada: 2nd in semifinals and qualified for the A final Sunday
(Alyson Charles, Rosalie Tremblay, Genève Bélanger, Audrey Phaneuf)
Relay M
Canada: withdrew in semifinals
(Maxime Laoun, Sasha Alexander Fathoullin, Sébastien Gagnon, Samuel Girard)

About Speed Skating Canada
Speed Skating Canada (SSC) is the governing body for competitive long track and short track speed skating in Canada. Founded in 1887, the association is comprised of 13 provincial and territorial branches representing more than 13,000 individual members, and counting. SSC believes that sport is an apprenticeship for life and prizes respect for others, integrity, excellence of effort, as well as a safe, healthy environment. SSC recognizes and values its outstanding volunteers who give freely of their time and expertise. It also celebrates the 63 Olympic medals won by Canadian athletes since 1932, as well as the coaches, officials and other dedicated individuals who helped them on their journey.

SSC is proud to be affiliated with partners that share the same vision and values including our premium sponsor Intact Insurance, as well as our funding partners, the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, and WinSport Canada.

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For information:
Patrick Godbout
Communications & Media Relations Manager
Speed Skating Canada
Phone: 514 213-9897

Jeff MacKinnon   
Coordinator, Media and Communications Services – long track
Speed Skating Canada
Phone: 403-860-9525