Tough Ice Challenges Short Track Speed Skaters in Taipei

Canadian short track speed skaters had a tough day on the ice, today, at the World Junior Championships in Taipei. Difficult ice conditions seemed to be the biggest challenge for the athletes in today’s 1500m, and Canada’s best result was Kristy Shoebridge’s (Cambridge, ON) 10th place.

The ice was made specifically for the event, and athletes were only able to get on it Thursday. Canadian Junior Champion Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC) was disappointed with her day, as she had to settle for the 24th position. Things were looking good as she was leading her first heat, but she lost her grip coming out of a corner late in the race and she almost fell. Two skaters took advantage of her slip to get ahead and with only 1 ½ lap to go, Marceau wasn’t able to get back to the front.

Shoebridge and Sabrina Bourgela (Montreal, QC) were both able to make it past the first round. In semi-final, Shoebridge had a good race, but she got tired near the end and wasn’t able to keep up with the strong Asian skaters. Bourgela, hoping not to have the same problems, chose to stay in the back and come out strong in the end, but it was too little too late and she wasn’t able to make it past 4th place of her heat. Shoebridge takes 10th place overall in the distance while Bourgela is 11th.

On the men side, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu (Sherbrooke, QC), bronze medallist in the 1500m at last year’s World Junior Championship in his hometown, was the one with the highest expectations. All three Canadian skaters made it easily through the first round. “In semi-final, Antoine was ahead almost the entire race,” explained Canadian coach Kenan Gouadec. “That was a good thing, as there was a lot of action in the back with a double fall. With one and a half lap to go, Antoine lost his grip on the ice coming out of a corner, he found himself in third place. He got his speed back and was finishing a tight inside pass when the Chinese skater ahead closed in on him and he was disqualified.” In light of this disqualification, Gélinas-Beaulieu had to settle for 18th place.

It’s Montreal’s Mikhail Jeonghan Choi who achieved the best result on the men side, with the 13th position. Choi was in control of his semi-final for some time, but suffered a similar fate as Shoebridge when he got tired near the end and couldn’t follow when skaters started to pass him.

Pierre-Olivier Gagnon (Québec, QC) also had trouble with the ice. In his quarter final race, he slipped coming out of a corner and fell to the ice, after a Bosnian skater tried to take advantage of the space to pass him.

After a tough day of individual races, Canada came back strong and both relay teams were able to qualify for their semi-finals. “Things were going really well for the women, they were way ahead of the others, but with 1 ½ laps to go Laurie [Marceau] fell coming out of that same corner, and the Americans were able to pass, but we still finished second right behind,” said Gouadec. The men’s team were able to take first place of their heat.

The competition will resume tomorrow, and Canada has strong medal hopes as athletes will be racing in the 500m.