Kalyna Roberge 5th in the 1500m at World Championships

After the Olympic Winter Games, the World Championships are the most important event of the 2009-10 season for short track speed skaters. Almost everyone is in Sofia, Bulgaria, for the second to last big competition of the season and all skaters have one thing on their mind: to earn a World Title.

The first day was South Korea’s day, as their athletes won all the medals in the 1500m, both for men and women.

Kalyna Roberge was the top Canadian today with a fifth place. The Saint-Étienne-de-Lauzon skater was the lone Canadian in the final and she is delighted with her result. “My Olympic results weren’t above my expectations,” she confided. “So the World Championships is a good occasion for me to show what I’m worth. To be in the 1500m final, for me, it’s outstanding. It’s not my favorite distance and it’s the distance that I had the most set-backs in after last year,” said Roberge, who suffered back pain last season that affected her results and training.

“A fifth place, for me, it’s excellent,” she continued. “Everyone doesn’t realize the depth of the field here, but I do. And I’m really happy to make a come back in this distance.”

Shorter distance specialists, Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) finished 18th and 19th. Gregg took the 7th place in her semi-final, while St-Gelais was disqualified in semi-final.

Koreans Seung-Hi Park, Eun-Byul Lee and Ha-Ri Cho, took the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.

On the men side, none of the Canadian skaters made it through the semi-final. François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) finished 13th while François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) took the 17th place. “François had a great race. He was in the front when he fell on his own,” explained Yves Hamelin, High Performance Director for the team. “François-Louis’ race was quite fast and he ran out of energy near the end.” Tremblay had not raced a 1500m this season and he had to race three in a row today!

Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) was disqualified in the 1500m for the fourth year in a row at World Championships. “When it happened, we thought: not again!,” said Yves Hamelin, still slightly amused by the situation.

And the skater wasn’t too put off by the bad luck. “I made the wrong decision in my last lap,” he wrote on Twitter. “But there are still many races to go, this event is just starting!” Hamelin winds up 18th in the distance.

Yoon-Gy Kwak, Si-Bak Sung and Ho-Suk Lee were the three skaters on the podium at the end of the day.

The women’s relay final will be the same as it was at the Olympics, as South Korea, China, Canada and the US will battle for the title of World Champions.

The Canadian Team, made of Roberge, Gregg, Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) and Valérie Maltais (Saguenay, QC) for today, won its semi-final ahead of the Olympic champions from China. “We had a great race and the Chinese were surprised to see us so close to them and passing them,” said Roberge. “We showed up with no pressure.”

In the final, the Korean team will definitely want to make up for the Olympics, where it was disqualified in the final, allowing for China to grab a gold medal while Canada received silver.

Tomorrow, athletes will race the 500m and the men will also take part in the relay semi-final.