Kalyna Roberge & François-Louis Tremblay back at the top

Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) and François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) took the gold medals in the 500m today at the Canadian Open Short Track Speed Skating Championship. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) took the other medals on the women side, while silver and bronze went to Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) on the men side.

With on the line the chance to represent Canada at the World Championships in March and at the World Cups this winter, as well as a spot on next year’s National Team, competition promised to be exciting on the ice of the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal.

Kalyna Roberge; Photo: Simon Pichette
Kalyna Roberge showed everyone she was back in great shape and while she hadn’t skated a 500m race since the end of last season because of an injury this past summer, she managed to win all her races to be crowned Canadian Champion in the distance.

There were five skaters in the final, Roberge skating against Gregg, Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC), Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau, QC) and Maltais. After a very fast start of Gregg, a fall from Hewitt with three laps to go made it a four woman rice, and Roberge achieved a great pass on the inside to take the lead with a little less than two laps to go to take the win.

“I didn’t have expectations this morning, I lost a lot of time this year with my injury, so I’m happy!”, said Roberge after the race. “I know Jessica (Gregg) well, I knew she would slow down slightly at the end, so I didn’t want to try anything risky at the beginning, I wanted to wait for the right time to pass her and that’s what I did. I look forward to tomorrow as the 1000m is my favorite distance.”

Gregg and Maltais are now on top of the overall ranking of the Fall selection and the Canadian championship, but the selection of athletes who will go to the World Championships depends on the results from the 1000m tomorrow as the rankings are tight and some athletes did not skate in the first selection.

On the men side, Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was the other skater in the final that looked like a World Cup race. Tremblay, who has one of the fastest starts in the World, started first, with Hamelin, Jean and Bastille just behind. Hamelin was able to pass him in the first lap to take the lead, but with two laps to go, Tremblay came back in front to cross the finish line in front of his teammates.

“I’m really happy, there were 3 of us in the final who can constantly win medals in World Cups,” explained Tremblay. “I haven’t won a race in national selections in three years, so this is a great victory for me. It puts me in a nice place in the rankings. It’s also been a while since I beat Charles (Hamelin) in a race, it feels good!”

In the overall rankings on the men side, Hamelin is first with over 1000 points more than his closest opponent, Olivier Jean. Tremblay is third, a little more than 1000 points behind Jean. Hamelin and Jean are therefore sure to skate at the World Championships in March as a victory gives 1000 points, so no one can catch up with them.

Competition ends tomorrow at the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal, and teams who will represent Canada on the international stage this winter will be named later next week. Races start at 9:30am tomorrow and athletes will skate the 1000m.