Beaulieu & Drolet Grab Silver Medals at Changchun Short Track World Cup

Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) and Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) gave Canada their first medals, in the 500m and 1000m respectively, at the Korean Air ISU Short Track World Cup event in Changchun, China. Moments later, the men’s relay team added to the harvest with their third gold medal in as many events so far this season.

Beaulieu was first to strike, in a never seen before seven men 500m final, where he was joined at the start line by teammate Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB). But with seven men at the start, Beaulieu, who was advanced from his semi-final after he was brought down by another skater, found himself the lone skater on the back line for the start. More of a long distance specialist, Beaulieu was hoping to stick behind the pack entering the first corner, before attempting an outside pass.

“It was a very unusual situation,” explained Team Leader Yves Hamelin. “Liam had a slip at the start, and ended up blocking Rémi a bit, so he found himself a little behind. A bad pass from Lee Ho-Suk of Korea on a Chinese skater brought both of them down, and allowed for Rémi to catch up. With one lap to go, Russian skater Semen Elistratov was in front, followed by McFarlane. Beaulieu, third, managed to take second place, and it looked like we would have two Canadians on the podium, but then Ryosuke Sakazume (Japan) passed Liam at the finish.”

So Elistratov won gold in 43.30, followed closely by Beaulieu (43.410). Sakazume won bronze in 43.596 and McFarlane had to settle for fourth place (43.813). Dustin Miller (Kitchener, ON) was eliminated in the quarter final for 11th place overall.

Drolet was the only other Canadian skater to make it to an A final today, in the women’s 1000m. She had not raced a 1000m final since the Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games in 2002. Racing against Yang Shin-Young of Korea, Olympic Champion Zhou Yang of China and Japanese Yui Sakai, she knew it would not be easy. With two laps to go, finding herself in the back of the pack, Drolet attempted an outside pass on the Japanese. When the Japanese put her arm out to try and block her, the Chinese skater who was slightly ahead was deported, and Drolet managed to pass both athletes at the same time, finding herself in second place. Sakai was penalized for the move, but that didn’t keep Drolet from winning silver with a time of 1:34.343. Yang finished first (1:33.419) and Zhou third (1:34.447).

“I’m really happy with the result,” said Marie-Ève Drolet with a smile. “This gives me a lot of confidence, it was more stressful this weekend since the Koreans were here, it was harder to achieve what I had done in Montreal. There are only four skaters in a 1000m final, so it’s much harder to make it, but I had a wonderful semi-final, I’m really proud of what I did today.”

Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC) also raced the 1000m today, but she was eliminated in the quarter final round, for 13th place overall. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) faced a very strong repechage quarter final with two other strong skaters, and her day ended there, for 25th place.

In the 500m, Andréa Do-Duc of Montreal was once again the strongest Canadian skater, with 11th place. Gabrielle Waddell (Red Deer, AB) finished fourth of her quarter final, and ends up 13th in the distance.

Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) was hoping to make his way on to the 1000m podium as he had done at the Montreal World Cup event earlier this season. “Unfortunately, I was ousted in the semi-final,” he explained. “I didn’t have a great start, and the Korean gave a very fast pace to the race. I was able to follow, but it was too fast for me to manage a pass, so I ended up third.” Gilday went on to win the B final, for 6th place. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) received a penalty for impeding in his quarter final race, and ends up 16th.

The last race of the day was the men’s relay final, in which Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Gilday, Beaulieu and Jean teamed up to fight it out against the Americans, Chinese and Koreans. “It was a crazy race from the start,” described Gilday. “Everyone was close together, the Koreans fell halfway through the race, and after that it was a bit of mayhem, everyone was going fast. The Chinese fell near the end of the race and were later disqualified, but we stayed strong and completed some good exchanges to help us skate strong until the end.” So Team Canada once again took the gold medal, their third in as many World Cup events so far this season, with a time of 6:54.065. The Americans finished second (6:54.180) and the Koreans won the bronze medal with a time of 7:00.949. “It was good to have all four top teams in the world in the final for once!” concluded Gilday.

Tomorrow, teams from all countries will travel to Shanghai, China, where they will skate in the fourth stop of the Korean Air ISU World Cup Short Track Circuit next weekend.