Charles Hamelin & Valérie Maltais 1500m Canadian Champions

No one was surprised to see Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) taking gold and silver in the 1500m at the Canadian Open Championship taking place in Montreal. On the women side, the final was full of action, and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) took the title, closely followed by Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) and Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB).

It was an uneventful final for the men, Hamelin and Jean taking the lead in the first few laps. The pack was tight, but the two athletes were never threatened in the fast paced race led by Hamelin (2:15.480). Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) crossed the finish line in third place, for the bronze medal and important points in the rankings that will help determine which athletes will get to represent Canada at the World Championships and in World Cups this winter.

“It was a fast enough race, I gave a good rhythm from the start”, explained Charles Hamelin, who is generally the man to beat in a national competition. “I knew I was able to lead the entire race, I often do it in training. My goal is really to finish in the top-two, not to take risks and race well. Olivier was behind me and I knew he wouldn’t try anything risky, it’s not worth it here.”

Hamelin and Jean have a good lead on their counterparts, and if they skate all finals this weekend they should be sure to skate at the World Short Track Championship in March. The other athletes in the final were Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT), Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) who finished 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.

On the women side, there was a lot more action in the final. Marie-Ève Drolet (Saguenay, QC) is making a come back to competition, and it has been successful so far. The athlete who dominated the pre-selection event in Calgary last November made the final, along with the one who has been dominant in Canada in the last two years, Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC). The two skaters have been compared a lot in the last few weeks, and it was the first time they were skating against each other.

Valérie Maltais; Photo: Simon Pichette
No one wanted to let someone else lead during the final, so position changes and passes were numerous. With a little bit less than four laps to go, Roberge tried to pass Valérie Maltais, but it was too tight and Roberge ended up in the mats. A little bit later, just before starting the last lap, Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, ON) tried to pass Drolet who was then in first place, but she lost her edge and fell, bringing Drolet down with her.

The two Maltais – who are not related – were then able to make their way to the finish line without further trouble to take gold and silver, and Gregg, the only other athlete who did not fall, followed. Roberge and Blondin were disqualified and Drolet took 4th place.

“It’s an important win that gives me confidence”, said Valérie Maltais after her victory. “It will really help me with the points. It’s a bit different with Marie-Ève, we don’t know her, we never raced against her, so we are watching her, looking at her strategy. In the final, I definitely didn’t want her in front of me.”

It’s a first victory for Valérie Maltais in a Canadian championship. She just came back from Sherbrooke, where she won a bronze medal in the 500m and silver in the relay last weekend in the World Junior Championship.

Competition promises to be interesting tomorrow at the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal, as athletes will vie for the 500m Canadian titles – the favorite of many Canadian skaters – starting at 1:30pm.