Guillaume Bastille, Jessica Gregg, Marianne St-Gelais & Tania Vicent join the team

Today was definitely the most exciting day at the Bell Short Track Team Selection, and Canada’s Short Track Team for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games now has four more members. With a win in the 1500m race, Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) joins the ranks, Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) also secured their spots thanks to their first and second place finishes in the 500m. Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) is the fourth addition to the team.

The 500m races were up first, and anything could happen in the women’s final with the three leaders on the distance, Gregg, St-Gelais, and Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) were all in the final, alongside Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC). Gregg, who was first on the line, had the fastest start, followed by St-Gelais, Lambert and Roberge. It was a fast race, and there were no change in positions as the skaters cruised to the finish line, with Gregg winning in 43.776. St-Gelais was right behind in 43.822, Lambert finished third (43.903) and Roberge fourth (44.661).

Marianne St-Gelais and Jessica Gregg all smiles after the women's 500m; Photo: Jeff Bough
Both Gregg and St-Gelais were celebrating at the finish, as they knew this gave them the two top results in the distance (Gregg had won the last 500m race and St-Gelais was second), securing a place for both of them to be nominated to the Short Track Olympic Team.

“This takes a lot of stress off my shoulders”, smiled Gregg after confirmation of her win. “I feel awesome! I’m so glad I’ll be a part of this team.” St-Gelais was also ecstatic coming off the ice. “I’m so excited! I had counted the points, so I knew what I had to do, and I did it! When I crossed the finish line, I just couldn’t wait to call my mom to tell her!”, she said.

On the men side, things were just as exciting, with five men in the final, including Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB) who had already secured a win in the distance on Wednesday. François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) also had a chance to qualify as he had a second place finish under his belt already. They were lined up with Cory Rasmussen (Prince George, BC), Bastille and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT).

McFarlane sprinted off the start line, as he did all week, followed by Hamelin, Rasmussen, Bastille and Gilday. Rasmussen passed second with a lap and a half to go, and Hamelin tried a move on the outside right away, but he fell, while Bastille caught up McFarlane just before the finish line. McFarlane tried to stretch his foot, but lost his balance and fell at the line. Both Hamelin and McFarlane were disqualified, respectively for charging and kicking out. This gives first place to Bastille (41.547), second to Gilday (41.880) and third to Rasmussen (42.696).

In the overall ranking on the distance, however, Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) gets the first place, thanks to first and third place finishes in the first two 500m races. Jean will therefore skate in both the 500m and 1000m at the Olympics.

Three skaters in the women’s 1500m final had a chance to win the distance: Kalyna Roberge, Marianne St-Gelais and Amanda Overland (Montreal, QC). Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, ON), Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC) and Anne Maltais (Québec, QC) were also on the start line. It was a slow race, with no one really wanting to take the lead. Roberge was ahead with five laps to go, Overland, right behind, passed her on the inside with 3 ½ laps remaining, but Roberge was really focused on the win and took her leading position right back, before accelerating the pace. Overland followed, but it was not enough, as she crossed the finish line in 2:30.097, behind Roberge (2:29.560). St-Gelais was third (2:30.171), Maltais fourth (2:30.458), Marceau fifth (2:30.589) and Blondin sixth.

Roberge will therefore get to race both the 1000m and 1500m at the Olympics, and this opened the door to Tania Vicent’s qualification based on her combined results in the 500m and 1000m. Despite the fact that she did not race today because of a fall in the warm-up, the veteran had such a strong start in the competition with two third place finishes in the 500m and a second and fifth place in the 1000m that no one can catch up with her. She will take part in her fourth and last Olympic Winter Games next February.

On the men side, it could be anyone’s race, as all the leaders were in the final.

Guillaume Bastille made the team, thanks to his win in the 1500m; Photo: Jeff Bough
Hamelin, Bastille, Jean, Gilday, Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) and Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) gave it their all. The men were fighting for the lead position, and Bastille was first with 6 laps to go. Gilday passed him two laps later and accelerated the pace, but Bastille kept up and took advantage of a slight slip of Gilday with two laps to go to get back in front and cross the finish line first in 2:13.332. Gilday followed in 2:13.488, Hamelin was third (2:13.558), Jean fourth (2:13.656), Beaulieu fifth (2:13.804) and Monette sixth (2:14.532).

Bastille’s win, combined with his second place finish in the previous 1500m race, secured his spot to race in the distance in February 2010. “I feel awesome, I’ve been working on this for years”, he said afterwards. “Last year, I missed the World Championships by 1 race, so this is great! We’ll have a good team for the Games, that’s for sure. I don’t fully realise I’m a part of it yet, but I’m really happy!”

There is one day left to the Bell Short Track Team Selection, and skaters will be back to the Pacific Coliseum tomorrow at 10am, for the last 1000m race. Speed Skating Canada’s High Performance Short Track Committee will then meet to evaluate bye requests and determine who will get the discretionary positions to complete the team, which will be announced on Wednesday, August 26th.