Big tests await Canadian short track speed skaters at upcoming World Cups

Some of Canada’s top short track speed skaters are on the mend from injuries and face their first competitive test at the season opening World Cup event scheduled for Harbin, China this Friday to Sunday (October 22-24, 2004).

The most serious injury occurred to double Olympic medallist Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal. He hurt his back in a crash at the season-ending world championships last March.

"Technically on the ice you’d never know that Jonathan was injured," said Canadian national team coach Guy Thibault following a recent practice. "He’s still underweight and doesn’t have his usual strength but within a month or two that should become normal. The question is how he’ll react mentally in the heat of competition."

This is a pre-Olympic season on paper, but for Thibault the Games preparations are underway. The Olympic team trials are next September, less than a year away.

"The athletes are in Olympic mode," said Thibault, who guided Canada to six medals at the 2002 Olympics "Our training and preparations are based on an 18-month plan to make us the best at the Olympics. The last sprint for the Games has started since this summer."

Also battling injuries are Jean-Francois Monette of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., (back), Amélie Goulet-Nadon of Laval, Que.,(back) and world championship medallist Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., (neck). But all will be on the ice for the first World Cup.

On the men’s team with Guilmette and Monette for the first two World Cups are Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., and Steve Robillard of Montreal. On the women’s side it’s Goulet-Nadon, Kraus, Tania Vicent and Anouk Leblanc-Boucher, both of Montreal, and Amanda Overland of Cambridge, Ont.

There are six stop on the World Cup circuit this season including the fourth stop December 3-5 at Saguenay, Que. The world team championships are March 5-6 at Chuncheon, South Korea and the world championships March 11-13 in Beijing. The junior worlds are January 7-9 in Belgrade. The Canadian Open is January 28-30 in Montreal.