Canada takes silver at World Team Championships

Canada’s men’s short track speed skating team put a good end to its season by taking the silver medal, today, at the World Team Championships held over the weekend in Heerenveen, The Netherlands. The womens’ team finished fourth after an unfortunate fall in the relay final.

The World Team Championships follow a different format, in which every member of each team must skate in a number of races to accumulate points for the team. Athletes compete over 500m, 1000m, 3000m and a relay race. Countries are split into two brackets of four. The first team of each bracket is automatically qualified for the A Final to be held the following day, while teams ranked 2nd and 3rd in their group must race a repechage to determine who will make the final.

On the first day, the ladies’ team, made of Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC), Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB), Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC), Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) and Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) finished 2nd of their bracket with 35 points. Korea was first with an impressive 51 points.

The men’s team came very close to winning their group, but they finished the event with 36 points, just behind China with 39. Athletes skating for Canada were Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC), François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC), François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC).

Both teams had to skate in the repechage with hopes to qualify for the final. The men’s team showed they were ready for the big final when they dominated their opponents, finishing with a total of 44 points, 8 more than their closest rivals, the Americans, who concluded the repechage with 36 points, enough to also make the final.

“Yesterday we had a bad start to our day against the Chinese,” said Charles Hamelin, “so later, we really wanted to come back and race the way we are able to, finish the day on a positive note. We came back strong, won many races, including the relay, which wasn’t really hard for us.”

The final promised to be exciting, with both Canadians and Koreans hungry to win after being left out of the relay final at last week’s World Championships in Austria. The Hamelin brothers started out well, each winning one race in the 1000m, while Tremblay took 3rd place and Jean 4th in their respective heats. On to the 500m, Canada’s strongest event, Tremblay and Charles Hamelin added two more victories for their country, while François Hamelin finished 2nd and Jean, who fell and dislocated his shoulder, was fourth.

Monette added points for his team when he finished fourth of the 3000m race, in which Charles Hamelin also finished 7th. It had to come down to the relay, with Canada and Korea both able to capture the gold. Team Korea crossed the finish line first in 6:50.014, Canada just behind in 6:50.216. “It was a good relay,” said François-Louis Tremblay. “We definitely wanted to win because the winner of the relay was going to win the Championship. We didn’t want to be behind, we sometimes ended up 3rd, we couldn’t pass, so in the end we were trying to catch up rather than controling. It’s too bad, we would have liked to win.”

The 36 points were enough for Korea to win the event, closely followed by Canada with 34 points. The United States took the bronze medal with a distant 27 points. “We came today with a confident team, a team who was back in the game, and we had some really good races, even with a Korean, an American and a Chinese athlete in each race,” concluded Charles Hamelin. “The guys had amazing races, we skated really well during the final, it was all about the relay in the end. I think we’re all happy with the result.”

The women’s team also had a great showing in the repechage, tying the Americans for first place with 37 points each. On to the final, all Canadians were 3rd of 4th of their 1000m race. Both Roberge and Gregg then went on to win their 500m heat, collecting important points for Team Canada. Roberge also took 3rd place in the 3000m race, in which Anne Maltais was 7th. With the relay still to be raced, and three teams very close in points, there was a chance for Canada to take 2nd or 3rd place. But an unfortunate fall in the relay made it impossible to move up in the rankings, and Canada finished the event in fourth place with 22 points, just behind Team USA with 24. The Chinese team took gold (46 points) and the Koreans (29 points) silver.

“At the beginning of the relay, we were in control,” explained Kalyna Roberge. “But when my turn came, at the 3rd exchange, I lost contact on my right and we ended up 4th, we tried to catch up and I fell. We are disappointed because we know we could have been on the podium, it was really close and we had a chance to finish 2nd. We had some good races today.”

The World Team Championships put an end to the short track speed skating season. Athletes will now enjoy a three week holiday before they start training again early April in order to be ready for the Olympic Team Selection to be held in August at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.