Marianne St-Gelais crowned junior champion in the 500m, Valérie Maltais 3rd

Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) made the joy of the crowd by taking the World Junior Champion title in the 500m and breaking the world junior record in the distance, today, at the Eugène-Lalonde arena in Sherbrooke. Her teammate Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) took the bronze, while Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu (Sherbrooke, QC) came close to a second bronze medal in as many days, but he had to settle for 5th place when he was disqualified in the final.

“I’m still really excited”, jubilated the St-Félicien athlete when asked what the title represented for her. “My objective for this competition was the gold in the 500m, so to get it, on top of a world junior record, I couldn’t ask for more!”

Marianne St-Gelais skating to gold; Photo: Yves Longpré
On the women side, the 500m final was promising with the two Canadians on the start line, along with Italian Arianna Fontana, a specialist in the distance, and Korean Lee Eun-Byul, silver medallist in the 1500m yesterday. The four skaters had all skated times below the world junior record earlier in the day.

St-Gelais started extremely fast, as usual, and led the race until the last lape, when the Korean skater managed to pass inside to cross the finish line first. The athlete was then disqualified for cross tracking when Maltais tried to pass her, which gave the title to St-Gelais. Maltais was fourth after the first turn, and was unable to pass, so Fontana took silver and Maltais bronze.

“Marianne is known for skating really fast in the first two laps”, explained Maltais. “I expected to wait later to make a move. The Korean did the same thing, but I didn’t expect her to do it from the inside, and that made me lose some speed. I’m really happy, because honestly I didn’t expect a medal in the 500m!”

It is in the quarter finals that Maltais, in 44.598, first broke the world junior record of 44.905, but she only held the record for a few minutes, until St-Gelais crossed the finish line in 43.922 on the very fast Sherbrooke ice.

The third Canadian skater, Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, ON) was stopped in quarter final. Blocked in third place behind American Alyson Dudek, she tried until the end, but finished third. In the overall ranking, St-Gelais is now first, Maltais 5th and Blondin 8th.

The men also skated some very fast times, and American J.R. Celski managed to take both the gold medal and the world junior record, with a time of 41.462 in the final, breaking the old record of 42.173. Only one Canadian was in the final. Fifth at the start, Gélinas-Beaulieu passed 4th insite in the first lap, and took 3rd place with one lap to go, but he was disqualified for impeding on that move. Hungarian skater Viktor Knoch took the silver medal and Korean You Dong-Kun the bronze.

“Disqualifications are a part of short track”, explained Gélinas-Beaulieu at the end of the day. “We don’t control everything. I’m extremely satisfied with my 5th place, I take it well. This is a great first experience for me on the international stage.” And that it is, as the youngest Canadian skater is currently sitting in 6th position overall.

The other two Canadians were badlucky in semi-final when a problem with a blade from the start made Guillaume Blais-Dufour (Québec, QC) settle for 3rd place of his heat, and Maxime Fortin (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) was 2nd up until the last meters, but an unfortunate fall kept him from the final. The two skaters are 6th and 7th in the distance, placing them 7th and 11th respectively in the overall ranking.

To put an end to the day of competition, Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) joined forces with her teammates to win their semi-final in the relay ahead of the Italians. Maxime Gauthier (St-Hyacinthe, QC) did the same with the men, who finished second of their heat behind the Chinese. Both teams will be in the final tomorrow.

Competition ends tomorrow at the Eugène-Lalonde arena, where the World Junior Champions will be crowned after the 1000m and the 1500m Super Final. Skaters will also go for relay medals.