Tight competition ahead at Canadian Open Short Track Speed Skating Championship

There’s a lot on the line this weekend at the 2009 Canadian Open Short Track Speed Skating Championship that will be held for the second year in a row at the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal, from January 16 to 18.

The event serves as team selection for the World Short Track Championships scheduled for early March in Vienna, Austria. The top five male and female skaters overall between the Canadian Open Championship and the Fall World Cup Selection held in Vancouver last September will be able to represent Canada at the World Championship, and another athlete will join them for the last two stops of the World Cup Circuit this February.

For the last two years, Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne-de-Lauzon, QC) has been dominating on the women side, winning every race she entered in national selection competitions since the Fall of 2006. Roberge did not skate in the Fall World Cup Selection as she was injured, but she’s now back in shape and ready to compete. The most experienced athlete of the Canadian team, Tania Vicent (Laval, QC) is also coming back to competition after missing races this Fall due to a groin injury.

Marie-Ève Drolet, who put an end to a young career in 2002 after winning a bronze medal in the relay at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, and having been crowned World Junior Champion in 2000 and 2001, is making a come back to competition this year. It will be interesting to see how she will measure up to the other skaters this weekend.

It would not be surprising to see young skaters make the finals either, as the junior team made of Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC), Ivanie Blondin (Ottawa, ON) and Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montreal, QC) is just coming off a great showing at the World Junior Short Track Championship in Sherbrooke.

On the men side, competition promises to be very tough as it has been for the last few years. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) and Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) have an advantage on their competitors following great performances in the Fall World Cup Selection, but the other members of the national and development teams are ready to give everything they have hoping to represent Canada on the international stage this winter. Among the 9 skaters currently on our national team, 8 have won at least one medal in a World Cup since the Fall of 2007, and we can add to the list Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) who is on the development team right now. Talent is there, and action promises to be breathtaking on the Maurice-Richard Arena ice!

Also to watch on Saturday, the organizing committee of the event has planned a « celebrity race », that will combine personalities of various fields such as Alexandre Despaties, MC Mario, Carl Marotte and Annie Pelletier with ex skaters like Frédéric Blackburn, Isabelle Charest, Jonathan Guilmette, Nathalie Lambert and Mathieu Turcotte for a race that should take place around 3pm.

Athletes will battle in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m over the three day event. Action starts on Friday, January 16 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and students, and they will be on sale at the door or can be bought before the event at Ticketpro.ca.