Charles Hamelin Golden in Korea, Kalyna Roberge Gets Bronze

Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) won Canada’s first Short Track World Cup gold medal today, in Seoul, in the 500m. Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne de Lauzon, QC) followed with a bronze medal performance in the same distance.

Last weekend, while Canadian women took two of the three medals up for grabs in the 500m, the men were shut out of the podium. Roberge had to sit out the 500m finals after injuring herself in the 1500m. But it was a different scenario this afternoon in Korea.

Hamelin, who mentioned not feeling completely confident in the 500m last week, since he had not raced in over the summer and their training didn’t involve many speed peaks, proved he could gain his confidence back quickly. Today, he was strong in all his rounds, winning each and every one of them.

“Last week, I said I wasn’t comfortable on the ice, and I still felt that way two days ago, I didn’t achieve the times I wanted,” said Hamelin. “Today, I finished my first race in 41.3 and I felt great, my speed came back just at the right time! I led all my times from start to finish, except the final where I had to make a pass in the end.”

Hamelin hoped brother François (Ste-Julie, QC) and teammate François-Louis Tremblay (Montreal, QC) would join him in the final, but faith had it otherwise. The brothers actually finished 1-2 of their semi-final race, ensuring they would be in the final together. But it turned out the blocks were slightly misplaced during the race, giving them slower times than normal. To remedy the situation and ensure a fair chance for everyone in the final, it was decided that they would use the quarter final times to determine starting positions. The American team decided to protest and ask for a re-skate, after their competitor (Simon Cho) did not qualify, and the American Chief Referee decided to grant them their wish.

“The original decision made sense," explained Canadian Team Leader Yves Hamelin. "The race was over, it was conducted following proper procedure, with the right number of laps, so it seemed ridiculous and unfair to re-skate it. Everyone on site was surprised with the decision, and we will definitely follow-up with the Technical Committee [of the ISU] in order to address this kind of situation in the future.”

So the semi-final race was skated a second time, and in the re-skate, a Korean skater Kwak Yong-Gy tried to pass François Hamelin but touched him while doing so, and both athletes fell to the mats. Hamelin was the one disqualified, putting a bittersweet end to his day of competition, as he now has to settle for 9th place.

François-Louis Tremblay was in the other semi-final, and he finished third in 41.669, behind Chinese Jialiang Han (41.502) and Korean Lee Ho-Suk (41.504). He went on to win the B final for 6th place.

Alone in the final, Charles Hamelin didn’t want to take any chances. He started in the front, but Han managed a successful pass. Hamelin was able to reclaim the leading position in the last lap, and cruised to the finish line in 41.462, ahead of Han (41.509). The bronze medal went to Korean Lee Ho-Suk (41.553).

On the women side, only two skaters were still in the race for Canada. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) finished third of her very competitive quarter final round, behind Nannan Zhao of China and Italian Arianna Fontana. Gregg, who won a silver medal in the distance last week, took 9th place overall.

Roberge had some good races leading up to the final. Tired, after three 1500m and two 500m races in her legs, she gave everything she had in the final. Meng Wang took off with her usual speed, and Roberge was fighting with Nannan Zhao for the second place. “It was tight off the start, but she managed to get ahead of me,” said Roberge. “I caught up with her with very fast laps, two under 9.0 seconds, but it wasn’t enough to pass her. I’m still happy with the bronze, our team objective was not to peak here, as the competition doesn’t fit well within our training cycle, so to be able to perform while not on top form, it’s great.”

In 1500m action, Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) both made it to the B final, where they finished second and third respectively in 2:38.832 and 2:38.922, for 9th and 10th positions. American Jordan Malone won the race in 2:38.662.

Charles Hamelin was disqualified in his semi-final, in another controversial decision, and ends up 12th. “The 1500m went well actually, I did what I wanted to do, I had good races. In the last half-lap of my semi-final, Jeff Simon tried a very tight pass on me, there shouldn’t have been a pass there, and he charged me. We both fell, but I was the one disqualified. But even then, I’m really proud of myself for the way I raced.”

Roberge was once again the top Canadian woman, finishing second in the B final for 8th place. “I found it tough toay, the 1500m is harder physically, and Sébastien [the women’s coach] wanted us to skate well technically today, so I had a lot on my mind: speed, technique, strategy, not letting anyone pass me… so it was tough mentally. In semi-final and final, Sébastien told me to go with my guts, which made it a bit easier, and worked out well for me,” explained the young skater afterwards. Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) was fifth in her quarter final race, taking 27th place in the distance.

Despite the disappointments of the two disqualifications and the re-skate of the men’s 500m semi-final, it was a good day for Canada. “Having Charles back on top of the podium was great,” concluded Team Leader Yves Hamelin. “And Kalyna too. In the 500m, over two weeks, our three competitors won a medal, which shows that they will be very competitive for the rest of the World Cup Season and, most importantly, at the Olympics.”

Tomorrow, the Hamelin brothers, Jean and Roberge will all get another shot at the podium in the 1000m and the relay teams will race semi-finals and finals.