Silver medal for the Canadian Relay at World Championships

Canada added one medal to its tally, today, at the world Short Track Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria – a silver in the women’s relay. For the first time in many years, however, all Canadian skaters were part of the 3000m Super Final and rank in the top-10 at the conclusion of the event.

Skating in the relay for Canada today were Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC), Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB) and Tania Vicent (Laval, QC). They were part of a three team final as the Chinese team withdrew from competition.

The Korean team started out front and never looked back to cross the finish first in 4:08.356, but Canada stayed close behind to finish in a very good time of 4:09.310. The Americans were never really in the race, but still won the bronze medal in 4:14.231. Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC) also gets the silver medal as she helped Canada qualify in its semi-final race on Friday.

In the 1000m, Canadian skaters had some bad luck today, and only Jessica Gregg made her way to the semi-final. After a great day of racing, the Albertan was stopped there when she finished third of her heat. She went on to win the B Final for 5th place in the distance. Meanwhile, Roberge fell at the start and was able to catch up with the rest of the pack, but not to finish in the top-2 of her quarter final, and St-Gelais was disqualified in her heat when trying a tight pass, which places them in 14th and 16th place respectively.

Things weren’t luckier for the Canadian men, who were all stopped in quarter finals. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) was edged out by 0.009 seconds at the finish by Chinese skater Liang Wenhao and he has to settle for 9th in the distance. Younger brother François fell with two laps to go, as he was trying to accelerate but Korean Lee ho-Suk slowed down in front of him at the same time, for 13th place. François-Louis Tremblay (Montréal, QC) went for an outside pass with six laps to go, but had a slip and found himself in the back again, with a gap. He caught up with the other athletes, but wasn’t able to pass them, and finishes the distance in 14th position.

For the first time in many years, all athletes were in the top-8 overall after the three individual distances, allowing all of them to take part in the 3000m Super Final. Athletes are not used to racing that distance – this was the first time of the season for many of them.

While American J.R. Celski led most of the race, his early efforts to lap the pack played against him in the end, and he was passed by Koreans Lee Ho-Suk and Kwak Yoon-Gy in the last lap. The Koreans took the gold and silver medals respectively both in the distance and overall competition, while Celski had to settle for bronze. Charles Hamelin finished the race in 4th position, for 7th place overall in the competition, while brother François was 6th of the 3000m, for the best Canadian result of 5th overall. Tremblay finished the 3000m in 7th place, and ends up 8th in the overall ranking.

On the women side, the Koreans dominated the 3000m race, Park Seung-Hi winning gold, followed by Cho Ha-Ri and Lee Eun-Byul. Park was therefore crowned World Champion, with Wang Meng in second place, Cho third and Lee fourth. Kalyna Roberge and Marianne St-Gelais were fifth and seventh respectively, both in the 3000m and overall competition, and teammate Gregg was 8th in the 3000m, for 9th place overall.

The skaters now head to Bormio, Italy, where they will skate in the World Team Championships to conclude the 2009-10 season.