Young Canadian Team has Strong Performance at Changchun Short Track World Cup

There are many new faces on Team Canada that traveled to Changchun, China, for the third stop of the Korean Air ISU Short Track World Cup Circuit, but today’s results are consistent with the good reputation of the Canadians. All skaters had strong races and a majority of them was able to qualify straight to the quarter and semi final rounds to be skated this weekend.

On the men side, Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB), a rookie on the World Cup circuit, proved he was worthy of competing with the world’s best when he flew through all of his rounds in both 500m events, even posting the second fastest time of the day. Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) will join him on the start line of the 500m quarter final rounds tomorrow, but Dustin Miller (Kitchener, ON) will have to go through the repechage tomorrow morning with hopes to join his teammates for the final rounds in the evening, as he finished third of his heat today. On Sunday, however, Miller and Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) have both already secured their spot alongside McFarlane for the quarter final rounds in the second 500m event of the weekend.

“Despite a very slow ice, our men had consistent performances through the day, especially in the 500m,” explained Team Leader Yves Hamelin. “We are satisfied with the way younger skaters like McFarlane and Miller skated today, they showed a great quality of racing which is encouraging for us at this point. We’re a bit disappointed with some penalties received by our leaders in the 1000m and 1500m, some of which are hard for us to understand, but that’s part of short track so we have to accept what happened and move on.”

It seems like skaters, coaches and referees are still trying to adjust to some of the rule changes that happened before the start of this season. Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) and Charles Hamelin were both penalized today, respectively in the 1500m and 1000m, and they will have to sit out the rest of the races over those distances. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and Rémi Beaulieu both qualified for the 1500m semi-finals. Jean finished second of his heat, while Beaulieu, who was brought down in a fall with American skater Travis Jayner, was advanced.

In the 1000m, Jean, who is just returning to short track international racing after sitting out the first two World Cup events of the season in order to lace up long track blades and try his luck at the Fall World Cup Selections, was dominant from start to finish, winning his two heats and ensuring his place in Sunday’s quarter final rounds. Gilday, bouncing back from the penalty he received in the 1500m, was also dominant in his two races and will line up for the next round.

On the women side, once again the Canadian were strong in the 500m. Jessica Gregg (Edmonton, AB), returning to international competition after having been forced to sit out the first two stops of the World Cup circuit because of a concussion suffered in training late this summer, easily qualified for tomorrow’s quarter finals. Teammates Laurie Marceau (Dolbeau-Mistassini, QC) and Andréa Do-Duc (Montréal, QC) were also able to qualify for the next round without too much trouble.

Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC) and Gabrielle Waddell (Red Deer, AB) will see their nights cut short, as they will both have to race in the 1500m repechage round tomorrow if they want to make their way to the semi-finals. Mendes-Campeau fell along with a Japanese athlete during her race, while Waddell, who found hersself in a strong heat, finished third. If they make it through the repechage, they will be able to join teammate Marie-Ève Drolet (Laterrière, QC) in semi-finals.

On Sunday, Waddell and Gregg will both have to get up, to race the repechage in the 500m and 1000m respectively. Both had strong races in their heats today, but they were facing tough competition and were not able to take the first two coveted spots, ensuring them a place in the next round. Do-Duc and Mendes-Campeau will race in the 500m quarter finals, while Drolet and Marceau will do the same in the 1000m.

“Our women also had strong races today,” continued Hamelin. “Many of them don’t have a lot of world Cup experience, but they showed great qualities today. Marie-Andrée came back strong in the 500m after her fall in the 1500m, and Andréa showed us some great racing strategies. Marie-Ève was tired today, she’s had trouble sleeping all week, but once on the ice, she could have fooled any of us. She was really dominant and she actually raced in front of the pack, wich is unusual with her.”

Both the men and women had to race a qualification round in the relay. The men (Hamelin, Gilday, Jean and McFarlane) finished ahead of Russia and Japan, and the women (Drolet, Mendes-Campeau, Do-Duc and Waddell) took second place in their heat behind Korea, but well ahead of Poland and Kazakhstan. Both teams will race the semi-final rounds tomorrow.