Jessica Gregg & Olivier Jean Strike Bronze in Shanghai

Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) both raced to bronze medal performances on the last day of the Korean Air ISU Short Track World Cup in Shanghai, China, respectively in the 500m and 1500m. The men’s relay team then added a silver medal to its collection, so the Canadians conclude the fourth stop of the World Cup Circuit with three medals.

Gregg was first on the podium, for her first individual medal of the season. Racing along with three Chinese women in the final, Gregg knew there was no room for mistakes. “I wanted to have a fast start,” she explains. “Zhao Nannan of China had an amazing one, and she started out in front. I was third, where I remained for the rest of the race, protecting my line.” It was a very tight race, but Zhao skated to gold in 45.049, followed by Liu Qiuhong (45.122) and Gregg crossed the line third in 45.218.

The Edmonton athete had to sit out the Team Selections in September as well as the first two World Cup stops of the season in Montreal and Québec, because of a concussion suffered during summer training. “Since I missed the first part of the season, I’m still getting back into shape. But no matter how you are, if you race smart, you can do it, and I feel that’s exactly what I did today, I had a good race pattern.”

Andréa Do-Duc of Montreal was eliminated in the quarter final of the 500m, for 14th place overall.

Olivier Jean also skipped the first part of the short track season, but out of choice, as he tried his luck with clap skates on the 400m Oval. Before heading that way, he had however raced in the team selection, securing his spot on the short track World Cup Team should he chose to come back to it, which he did for the trip to Asia. His decision paid off, as he skated to his first individual medal of the season as well today, a bronze in the 1500m.

“My day started really well, I had a pretty good race in semi final,” said Jean after his day of racing. “In the final, it was a pretty tough race, I was with two Koreans and two Japanese. There was a lot of action, but I raced smart, managing my energy by skating from behind more than I usually do. I went to the front at the right moment, but unfortunately, I lost a bit of speed in the last two laps when I was in second place, and I got passed by a Japanese guy coming out of the last corner.”

Korean Noh Jinkyu won the gold medal thanks to a time of 2:18.506. He was followed at the finish by Takamido Yuzo of Japan (2:18.825) and Jean (2:18.842). Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC), after going through the repechage in the morning, saw his day end with the semi-final, and ends up 14th. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) received a penalty on a pass in his semi-final, for 19th place.

Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) was hoping to snag a medal in today’s 500m after being forced off the podium yesterday when bumped by another skater in the final, but he was once again out of luck. In the final, he attempted a pass on Korean Lee Ho-Suk in the first straight, and their blades touched, leading to Lee falling. Hamelin was penalized for his move and has to settle for fourth place. Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB) also raced the 500m today, but he was eliminated in quarter finals and finishes 9th.

In the women’s 1500m, Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) had another strong showing and made her way to the final. She was sitting at the back of the pack, waiting patiently to make a pass at the end of the race, using her top speed which has been very impressive during this trip to Asia. At the very end of the race, she finally started to accelerate quickly to pass outside, but Hungarian Bernadett Heidum had the same idea, and the two skater’s blades touched, bringing them both down in a fall. Drolet hit her head on the mats and suffered a concussion, so not only did she have to settle for sixth place in the 1500m, but she also had to sit out the relay.

Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC) raced in the second B Final of her weekend, a great race for the young skater who took the second position, for 8th place in the overall ranking of the distance today. Gabrielle Waddell (Red Deer, AB) ends up 16th after being eliminated in semi-final.

The men’s relay final was by far the most exciting event of the day in Shanghai. While for the first time this season the Canadians (Jean, Gilday, Hamelin and McFarlane were racing today) did not cross the finish line first, they are still very happy with their race. “We were trying something different today,” explained Jean. “Our coach wanted us to learn to race from behind, so we remained third most of the race.” Another first for the Canadians, Michael Gilday was racing the anchor leg, to finish the race. “I’ve been anchor in other races,” he said. “But this was a strong one, with the Koreans and Chinese. With two laps to go, I was in the lead, but World Champion Lee Ho-Suk passed me. I hooked back to the front for a split second, but he passed me right back. We both shot to the line, but Ho-Suk is an amazing skater and he beat me. It was great getting to race him that way to finish the relay.” The Koreans won their first relay gold medal of the season in a time of 6:48.747. Gilday was right behind in 6:48.832, and the Dutch won the bronze medal (6:49.912).

The women’s team, who had to change their line up at the last minute because of Drolet’s fall in the 1500m final, had a bit of bad luck, falling during an exchange along with members of other teams. The competing teams had already completed their exchange though, so they were able to continue with their race, while the Canadians lost some precious time and didn’t have a chance to make up for it. The Chinese team won the gold medal, followed by the Koreans and the Italians.

Canadian skaters will head back home tomorrow, where they will enjoy the holidays with their families and then prepare for the Canadian Open Championships set to take place in Montreal from January 21 to the 23.