Mathieu Turcotte wins first World Cup gold

Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., won the gold medal in the men’s 500-metre in dramatic fashion on Friday at the World Cup final in short track speed skating.

Turcotte passed American Rusty Smith with less than half a lap remaining to snare the first international victory of his career in a personal best 41.456 seconds. Smith who overtook Turcotte for the lead with two laps to go was second in 41.556 and Nicola Franceschina of Italy third in 41.617.

“The ice was so fast here that it made me feel a little unstable at times,” said Turcotte, the Olympic bronze medallist in the 1,000 in 2002. “The most comfortable position for me was to make sure I stayed in the lead. I’ve always had the speed but I think I was better prepared for the race today and that was the difference.”

Steve Robillard of Montreal was eliminated in the quarterfinals for 14th spot and Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., was eliminated in the second round for 32nd.

In the women’s 500, Tianyu Fu led China to a 1-2 finish clocking 43.827 with Meng Wang second in 43.892 and Marta Carpuso of Italy third in 44.005. Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal, the world junior champion in the event, placed fourth in the final in 44.222. It was only Leblanc-Boucher’s second career World Cup event.

Amanda Overland of Kitchener, Ont., and Mélanie Gagnon of Montreal were eliminated in the semifinals for sixth and eighth respectively.

Canada qualified for the finals in both relays.

In the men’s 5,000 relay, Canada won its semifinal heat clocking 6:46.144. The Canadian skaters were Turcotte, Robillard, Hamelin and Éric Bédard of Ste-Thècle, Que.

In the women’s 3,000 relay, Canada was second in its heat with Leblanc-Boucher, Overland, Gagnon and Raphaelle Lemieux of Riviere-du-Loup, Que.

Competition ends Saturday.