Vicent & Hamelin win opening races at Canada Post Open Championships

National team rookie Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., and two-time Olympic medallist Tania Vicent of Montreal won the men’s and women’s 1,500 metre races respectively on Friday to kick-off the Canada Post Open Championships short track speed skating competition.

In the men’s race, Hamelin showed why he is one of this season’s revelations in Canadian short track speed skating clocking two minutes and 15.18 seconds for the gold and his first national title. Mathieu Turcotte of Sherbrooke, Que., another Canadian enjoying a strong international season, was second at 2:15.28. Francois-Louis Tremblay of Boucherville, Que., was third in 2:15.33.

Hamelin, in his first full season on the national team, kept a low profile initially in the race before making his move and eventually taking the lead with about six laps to go.

"It was a very strategic race," said Hamelin, 20, who earned his first World Cup win last month and broke two Canadian records at the national team trials in November. "I just wanted to have enough momentum at the end to win the race. When you train with these guys everyday you can only improve. I won today but everyone in today's final was in contention."

In the women’s 1,500, Vicent, who has battled leg problems this season took the win in 2:25.13 with Anouk Leblanc-Boucher of Montreal second in 2:25.17 and Chantale Sévigny of Sherbrooke third in 2:25.25.

"This was definitely a test to see how I would feel in competition," said Vicent, also the 1,500 winner at team trials in November where she pulled a leg muscle the next day and withdrew. "I injured my hip just last week and I didn’t feel it at all today. I made some nice passes and the race went very well for me. It’s what I needed to get some confidence for the rest of this competition."

The competition also serves as a selection for the final two World Cups in Europe next month and the world championships in March.

Competition continues through to Sunday.