Olivier Jean Takes Silver Medal in 500m at World Championships

After teammate Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) took the 1500m silver medal yesterday at the World Short Track Championships in Sheffield, Great Britain, it was Olivier Jean’s turn to climb on the second step of the podium, today, this time in the 500m. This is a second individual World Championship medal for Jean (Lachenaie, QC), who won the bronze in that same distance two years ago.

Canadian skaters had high hopes in the event, which has been by far their most successful event at previous World Championships. Soft ice played a big role in many contender’s eliminations, however, and both Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) and François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) fell in their semi-finals as they were well positioned to qualify for the final. Meanwhile, Charles Hamelin received a penalty in his semi-final for impeding, which made Olivier Jean the lone Canadian skater to reach the final.

With five skaters on the start line, and Jean positioned fourth, he knew a strong start would be key. Jean took off third, but made his way to second place in the first corner, before taking first place in the next lap. American Simon Cho was not going to give up that easily, however, and he took the lead back with just a lap and a half to go. Chinese Liang Wenhao then made his way to second place in the last lap, but Jean pushed hard to the finish to claim the silver in a time of 42.429. Cho becomes the new World Champion in 42.307 and Liang took the bronze medal in 42.439, closely followed by teammate Liu Xianwei in fourth (42.523).

“I had a good day today,” explained Olivier Jean. “I was disappointed of my result yesterday, and I came here today with a lot of energy. In semi-final, I was a bit lucky, and I finished third, but since Charles [Hamelin] was disqualified, I made the final. My final was excellent, there were a lot of passes. Simon Cho raced really well, he was able to protect his lead and for me, I’m really happy with the race I did and my silver medal, my best result to date in World Championships. I have a really good feeling on the ice, I was confident coming into this Championships and I’m still very confident for tomorrow’s 1000m and 3000m!”

In the overall distance rankings, brothers François and Charles Hamelin end up respectively 7th and 9th.

On the women side, all eyes were turned to World Cup Champion in the distance Marianne St-Gelais, who was the big favorite. Things looked good for St-Gelais, who easily made her way to semi-finals. But her hopes of becoming World Champion were crushed in semi-final, when she slipped mid-race as she was in second position. She has to settle for 7th place and will now turn her focus to tomorrow’s 1000m.

Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) also qualified for the semi-finals, but her heat proved too strong and she was fourth from start to finish, which places her 8th overall. Jessica Hewitt (Kamloops, BC) was eliminated in quarter finals for 13th place.

The new women’s 500m World Champion is Chinese Fan Kexin, who completed the final in 44.620. Italian Arianna Fontana won the silver medal (44.687) and Chinese Liu Qiuhong gets the bronze (44.784).

Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) then stepped on the ice alongside the two Hamelin and Jean for the relay semi-final, which was a very close race. The Americans ended up with the win in 6:56.274, just 0.011 faster than Canada who crossed the finish in 6:56.285. Both teams will advance to tomorrow’s final along with the Koreans and Germans who finished first and second of the other semi-final.

Tomorrow, skaters will race the 1000m and Super 3000m final, as well as the relay final.