Jamie Gregg keeps on improving

Jamie Gregg (Edmonton, AB) kept his roll going with another excellent finish Sunday, laying down the best Canadian performance of the day with a 5th place finish in the 500m at the World Cup long track speed skating event in Obihiro, Japan. For her part, Shannon Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) was the top Canadian female, putting together an 8th place skate in the 1000m.

In the Men’s 500m, Japanese skater Joji Kato was the first to cross the line in 34.96, beating out his fellow compatriot Keiichiro Nagashima, who had to settle for silver in a time of 35.19. Korean Kyou-Hyuk Lee completed the podium, clocking in at 35.19 (photo finish).

Finishing so close to the podium with his time of 35.31, Gregg couldn’t be more content. “"I wish there was another World Cup, because I feel I am just getting better and better as the competitions go on." "Even though my races were not perfect, the speed is coming easier".

Other Canadians also came away with strong performances in the 500m on Sunday. Vincent Labrie (Saint-Romuald, QC) finished 12th in 35.80, while Gilmore Junio (Calgary, AB) came in 16th with a time of 35.94 and William Dutton (Humboldt, SK) in 18th in 36.28.

In the group B skate, Muncef Ouardi (Charlesbourg, QC) finished in first place, in a time of 35.79.

In the Ladies 500m, the Canadian women also put together strong performances. Rempel had the best time, finishing 12th in 39.26 and Anastasia Bucsis (Calgary, AB) had a clocking of 39.69 for a 19th place finish. German Jenny Wolf won the competition with a time of 38.03. Korean Sang-Hwa Lee continued her strong showing this weekend by winning the silver in 38.21, while Chinese skater Jing Yu completed the podium with a time of 38.30.

Gregg: best Canadian in the 1000m

Once again, Jamie Gregg led the way for the Canadian team, producing their best result with a 9th place finish, thanks to a time of 1:10.67. It also proved to be a nice improvement on his Saturday race, beating it by nineteen one hundredths of a second (1:10.88).

Meanwhile, things weren’t so rosy for Saturday’s bronze medal winner Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC), who came up a bit short today with a 14th place finish in 1:11.03, while fellow Canadian Richard MacLennan (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) came in 18th with a time of 1:12.15. German Samuel Schwarz climbed the top of the podium with a clocking of 1:09.98, beating out American Shani Davis, who collected the silver in a time of 1:10.15. Dutch competitor Jan Bos rounded out the medals with a race time of 1:10.17.

In Group B, Gilmore Junio finished in 5th in 1:12.53. For his part, Muncef Ouardi was not too far behind with a 7th place finish in 1:13.52.

On the women’s side, Rempel, who finshed 5th on Saurday, took the 8th spot today in 1:18.92, while Bucsis finished in 1:20.55, good for 17th. American Heather Richardson won the event in a time of 1:17.27. Japanese teammates Nao Kodaira (1:17.77) and Maki Tsuji (1:18.29) rounded out the podium, finishing 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Even though the Canadians were absent from the podium today, Bart Schouten, coach of the national team as well as team leader at the Nagano World Cup, pointed out the impact this particular World Cup had on the group as a whole:

“In this Asia trip, this young team really got their feet wet, gaining valuable experience, whereas some of the veterans found their way back into racing. We saw Jamie Gregg finish 5th, Shannon Rempel 5th also and Denny Morrison found his way to a medal again. We are going home to focus on solid training before the Canadian Single Distance Championships in January, which will be used as another stepping stone on the road to better performances."