Quebec’s Philippe Riopel & Justine L’Heureux move closer to podium at University Games

Harbin, China - - After a day off from racing, Philippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) and Justine L’Heureux (St. Tite, QC) came back to compete in the men’s 1000m and ladies 5000m and were within two or three spots of winning medals at the 24th Winter Universiade in Harbin, China.

“Once again, Philippe had a very good race. He’s been the best skater for the guys’ team all week, and he did well again today,” said National Team Coach Gregor Jelonek.

Riopel finished in fifth place with a time of 1:11.51. He holds the Canadian junior record in the distance and as a senior athlete, skated the fastest 1000m race of the 2008-2009 season, 1:08.27, just a few weeks ago at the North American Championships in Calgary.

Mykola Makowsky (Regina, SK) posted a good result, staying close to his 13th place finish in the 1500m on Sunday. He was 14th today in 1:12.31. Vincent Blouin (Quebec, QC) lost a couple of places since taking 17th in the 1500m, achieving a time of 1:14.02 today to finish 21st. Calgary’s Keith Sulzer, who is one of Canada’s developing long distance skaters, finished 25th in 1:14.38.

The medal winners for the men’s 1000m were Korea’s Mo Tae Bum, who added a gold medal to his collection of bronze in the 500m and gold in the 1500m. The silver went to Poland’s Konrad Niedzwiedzki, the 1,500m runner-up who lost the gold to Mo by only 0.10 seconds on Sunday. Today, he beat Korean Lee Kang Seok, who won the bronze in 1:10.79.

The women’s 5000m race was very tight, with Dong Feifei, of China, securing her third medal of the games in 7:19.76, followed by teammate Fu Chunyan in 7:20.38 and Poland’s Luiza Zlotkowska in 7:20.43. The three were separated by only .67 seconds.

Canada’s Justine L’Heureux was paired with the gold medalist and finished 6th with a time of 7:31.63.

“The 5K is not my favourite race, so I’m happy that I was able to skate well. I get to go back to one of my better distances tomorrow in the 1000, so to get a good placing here today gives me confidence heading in,” said L’Heureux. “I was in a good pair because I drew a Chinese skater with me. To hear the noise when we came in front of the crowd like that was really great.”

University of Calgary student Shannon Sibold, did very well, achieving her first top ten result of the Universiade. She was right behind L’Heureux, in 7th in 7:32.99. Kirsti Lay (Medicine Hat, AB) finished 15th in 7:48.60.

“For Shannon, it’s a career race. It’s probably the best one of her life. Technically, she was very sound, tactically she was good as well,” said Jelonek, who is Sibold’s coach.

“For Canada, this is a developmental meet and we send our developmental skaters. For many, it’s the first taste of international competition,” added Jelonek. “Knowing that the Koreans and the Chinese were sending their best skaters, it would have been unfair for us to expect a lot of medals from this group. We’re really happy with what the athletes accomplished this week.”

Racing continues tomorrow in the men’s 10,000m and women’s 1000m.

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