Canada Finishes Second to Korea at Short Track World Team Championships

Canada’s men and women short track speed skating teams both came close to being named World Team Champions, today, in Bormio. It all came down to the final event, the relay, and both Canadian teams took second place in their respective race, for second place overall in the competition.

The World Team Championships is the final event of the season in short track speed skating. Only eight countries are invited to take part, with five skaters each. The countries are split into two brackets of four, and four athletes per country compete over rounds of 500m and 1000m, then two athletes per nation race the 3000m, followed by a relay. Each placing gives points that are added for each country. After the qualifying round, the top country of each bracket automatically moves to the A Final, while the 2nd and 3rd placing country in each bracket will then meet to decide the other two finalists.

Saturday, Canada’s teams easily won their respective brackets. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC), Tania Vicent (Laval, QC), Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB), Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) finished the competition with 54 points, way ahead of Italy in second place with 32 points.

On the men side, Olympic medalists Charles and François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC), Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) also took the top spot easily with 53 points, 20 points ahead of their closest competitors from Italy.

Sunday, the women had to compete against Korea, Italy and Japan. The Korean women swept the 1000m events, while the Maltais, Gregg, Roberge and St-Gelais finished second of each of their heat. Korea was ahead by 8 points. Despite victories by St-Gelais and Gregg in the 500m, Korea added two points to its lead in the event, forcing Canada to race a strong 3000m. Maltais finished 2nd in that race, and Roberge 4th, while the Koreans were shut out of points by finishing 5 and 6.

“We knew the Koreans would be our biggest competition here, we had a badluck in the 500m which made our job harder for the relay. We had a good race, we didn’t expect to go so fast, but since the Olympics, we have been very consistent with times around 4:09, which shows we are really competitive,” explained Tania Vicent. “The Koreans are just really really strong in the relay.”

The Canadian team needed to win the relay to get the title, and despite a very strong race in a Canadian record time of 4:09.178, the Koreans were just too strong, finishing in an impressive 4:06.809 for the gold medal overall.

This was Tania Vicent’s last competition, as the skater announced earlier this year that she would put an end to her career at the end of the season. After 17 years on the National Team and four Olympic Winter Games (and as many Olympic medals), Vicent knew it was time to bid farewell to competitive speed skating.

“I thought I’d get more emotional today,” confided Vicent in interview at the end of the day. “Maybe I will realise it more when the girls go back to training without me in a few weeks. I will definitely miss skating a lot, but I have many other projects in mind that should keep me occupied, including starting a family!”

The men’s team was facing Korea, China and Italy in the final. It was meant to be a tough battle between the Koreans and Canadians, who have exchanged the title over the last few years. After a tough 1000m round for the Canadians (10 points against 13 for the Koreans), the Hamelin brothers, Jean and Tremblay had a strong showing in the 500m, the first three winning their heats and Tremblay taking second place. Canada was then in the lead 28 points to 23. Bastille added two points to the Canadian total with his third place in the 3000m, while Korea’s victory put their total to 28, a mere two points behind Canada.

Once again, it would come down to the relay. It was a very eventful race, with each team taking the lead at one point or another. In the end, a pass by the Koreans in the last lap gave them the victory by a very short margin (6:40.888) over Canada (6:41.028). The points are doubled for the relay, giving Korea a total of 38 points, two more than Canada at 36.

“It was a very tight competition between the Koreans and us, we did great in the 500m, had a few disappointments in the 1000m, but we made up for it in the 3000m,” explained Guillaume Bastille. “In the relay, we wanted to take the lead off the start, but it didn’t work out that way, the Koreans started out front, we were patient and made some good passes to take the lead in the last 12 laps. In the end, a very tight pass that referees judged was ok gave the victory to the Koreans, but we did great and are proud of it.”

This puts an end to the speed skating season. Athletes will now enjoy a month of holidays before they return to training in their respective training centers early May.