Kalyna Roberge & Olivier Jean have their ticket for 2010

The short track speed skating team for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is starting to shape up, as two other skaters were able to secure their place on the team, today, during the Bell Short Track Team Selection at the Pacific Coliseum. Both Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) won their 1000m race, their second win in the distance in the event. They will therefore not need to skate the distance a third time as no one could catch up with them in the standings.

The two athletes now have their ticket to race the 1000m at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. They still need to qualify to race in other distances, and that is where their focus will go in the next few days.

Roberge repeated her performance of Wednesday in the final, taking first place off the start and giving such a good pace to the race that no one was able to make a move on her. She crossed the finish line in 1:30.661. Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) who was taking part in her first final of this Team Selection event followed her for the entire race and earned her best result so far when she crossed the line second in 1:30.762. Amanda Overland (Montreal, QC) was third (1:30.819) followed by Valérie Maltais (1:31.375).

“I’m extremely happy”, said a relieved Roberge after her race. “This takes some stress off my shoulders, but not my will to win the other distances. I had a tough start to this competition, I focused on reaching the optimal mental state and it’s working great! With two laps to go, I was telling myself ‘don’t slip, don’t slip’, and at the end, it was ‘yeah, I qualified for the Games!!!”

¬On the men side, Jean was in a similar situation, in that he could pocket his ticket for the Games with a win. In the final, François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), who was second in the last 1000m race, thought he had it, after leading most of the race, but Jean was able to get him at the finish in 1:24.483 while Hamelin crossed the line in 1:24.486. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) took the third position in 1:24.528 and Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was fourth in 1:24.649.

“I’m really happy to know that I’ll be skating at the Olympics. Now I want to refocus on the 1500m”, said Jean in between the two events of the day. “I knew I could qualify today, so I wanted to show up at the line as strong as I could. There’s only one distance confirmed for me though, I want to be strong for the rest of the week and qualify in the 500m and 1500m too.”

That comment was reiterated by Roberge, and both skaters showed that they could do just that, as they came back strong to win the 1500m races too. The women’s final showcased seven athletes, as one was advanced from the semi-final. There was a lot of action off the start, with skaters trying to position themselves strategically. With seven laps to go, Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) was leading the pack, followed by Roberge, Overland, Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC), Maltais, Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) and the experienced Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) observing in the back.

Kalyna Roberge took the lead with four laps to go, Overland and Maltais following in her trace, and Roberge sprinted to the finish line that she crossed in 2:26.202. The young Maltais took the second position (2:26.515) and St-Gelais had a great finish with an inside pass on three skaters for the third place (2:26.732). Overland was fourth (2:26.825), Marceau fifth (2:27.305), Hewitt sixth (2:27:586) and Vicent seventh (2:28.003).

The men’s final was also full of changes of position, but they then settled into a rhythm given by Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC), Bastille, Jean, Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB), Marc-André Monette (Pointe-aux-trembles, QC) and Gilday following. Gilday tried an inside pass with five laps to go and lost his balance a bit, and shortly after McFarlane and Monette fell. Jean was then able to take the lead and get his second victory of the day (2:12.638), Bastille was a close second (2:12.659). Beaulieu was third in 2:13.517. Monette fourth and McFarlane fifth, while Gilday was disqualified for impeding.

The short track speed skating team now has three members lined up for the 2010 Olympic Games, as Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) was already pre-qualified and is not racing this week. More athletes will join the ranks on Monday, August 17th, as the last 1500m and 500m races will be held at the Pacific Coliseum.