Canada coasts to finals at short track world team championships

Both the Canadian men’s and women’s squads placed first in their respective groups to qualify directly for the finals Saturday at the short track speed skating world team championships.

In men’s competition, the Canadians placed first in its pool with 49 points. The U.S., was second at 34 and Italy third at 24. China was first in the other pool at 44 with South Korea second and Japan third.

China and Canada qualified directly for Sunday’s final while the second and third place teams competed in a repechage later Saturday to determine the other two finalists. South Korea and Italy took those spots.

In the team event, there are heats in the 500, 1,000 and 3,000 metres and a relay. There is a skater from each country in each heat. The winner in each heat earns five points for his country, second four and so on.

World record holder Jeff Scholten of Fredericton won both his 500 and 1,000-metre heats while Jonathan Guilmette of Montreal and Eric Bédard of Ste-Thècle, Que., won their respective 500 heats. Jean-François Monette of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., and Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., were 1,000-metre heat winners and Canada raced to victory in the relay.

In total the Canadian men, second last year, won seven of 10 races.

"Our goal to get first place in our pool and get a bye to the final," said Bédard, a double medallist at the 1998 Olympics. "The competition started at 9 a.m. and we didn’t want to be at the rink until 6 p.m. We’ve had great season and the gold medal here would really clearly show that."

In women’s competition, the Canadians took their pool with 49 points earning eight victories in 10 races. Bulgaria and the U.S., were second and third. China took the other pool with South Korea second and Italy third. The Koreans and Italians qualified for the final through the repechage.

Triple World Cup champion Amélie Goulet-Nadon of Laval, Que., continued her torrid pace this season with victories in the 500, 1,000 and 3,000 heats. Alanna Kraus of Abbotsford, B.C., won her 500 and 1,000 heats, Annie Perreault of Rock Forest, Que., was first in a 500 heat and Tania Vicent of Montreal did the same in the 1,000. The women, third last year, also won the relay. Amanda Overland of Cambridge, Ont., posted two second place finishes.

"It’s a big advantage to qualify first and not do the event twice in the same day," said Perreault, the 1998 Olympic champion in the 500. "We’re not surprised to advance. We got a very good group by not having the Chinese and Koreans in our pool."

The pools were based on the team standings this winter on the World Cup circuit. The Canadian men are seeded first and the women second.

Competition ends Sunday.