This article was originally published on Speed Skating Canada's website.
The Canadian national short track speed skating team won three medals, Sunday, at the ISU World Cup held in Dresden, Germany, as the women's relay won the 3000m race while brothers François and Charles Hamelin respectively collected silver in the men's 500m and bronze in the men's 1500m.
In five World Cups so far this season, the Canadian national team has tallied 21 medals, including three gold, seven silver and 11 bronze.
The Canadian relay, comprised of Marianne St-Gelais and Kasandra Bradette, both from Saint-Félicien, Que., as well as of Kim Boutin, of Sherbrooke, Que., and Audrey Phaneuf, of Boucherville, Que., won Sunday's A final in four minutes 13.293 seconds, ahead of Italy (4:14.452) and France (4:14.557). They therefore allowed Canada to earn its first win of the 2014-15 World Cup season in a women's relay after picking up two bronze medals, in Salt Lake City and Shanghai.
It was Canada’s first gold medal in the women’s relay event in this competition since the World Cup #5 in 2009 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
“China and South Korea weren't in the final, so we knew gold was well within our grasp. But we knew we had to be careful and focus on having a solid race, to stay in control,” said St-Gelais. “As we expected, the other teams battled with each other while we were in front. We'll savour this win, even if we know that some teams were missing.”
The win gave Genève Bélanger her first lifetime medal at a World Cup. The 17-year-old Montrealer was taking part this weekend in her first-ever competition at the senior level. Bélanger helped Canada qualify for the A final by skating in Saturday's semi-final race and Friday's qualifications. Valérie Maltais, of Saguenay (La Baie), Que., also earned a medal as she skated with the relay team during Friday's qualifications.
“I'm happy with this medal after taking part in the relay Friday and Saturday,” said Bélanger. “I understand why they didn't make me race (Sunday), because I had to go though four races in the 1500m. I was proud to cheer on my teammates from the sidelines.”
First individual medal since 2011 for François Hamelin
François Hamelin, who was taking part in his third World Cup this season after coming back to the circuit in December, finished second in the men's 500m behind Dmitry Migunov, the World Cup leader in that distance. The Russian skated to a time of 41.066 seconds, compared to 41.326 for the Quebecer from Sainte-Julie. François Hamelin collected his first World Cup medal since the fifth stage of the 2010-11 season, when he picked up silver in the 1000m. His last medal in a 500m dates back to the second stage of that same season, when he earned a bronze medal.
“I had a little bit of luck in the semi-final when two skaters fell, which opened things up for me, but I had a very good race in the final,” said François Hamelin. “I led during three laps and a half, and then (Migunov) went by me, as I made a small mistake that led me to slightly lose my balance.”
“But still, it's great to be back on the podium after the tough results I had in my first two World Cups this season,” he added. “It's good to be back at the level where I'm supposed to be.”
Olivier Jean, who was taking part in his first World Cup of the 2014-15 season over the weekend after spending the fall finishing his university studies in kinesiology, reached the A final in the men's 500. He was penalized, however, and had to settle for 5th place.
A 5th medal this season for Charles Hamelin
Charles Hamelin, of Sainte-Julie, Que., picked up his fifth medal of the 2014-15 World Cup season, and his third in a 1500m event after finishing second in Shanghai and Salt Lake City in that distance. Sunday, the reigning 1500m Olympic and World champion skated to a time of 2:14.236, finishing behind Russia's Semen Elistratov (2:14.013) and South Korea's Han Seungsoo (2:14.147).
“It was a different kind of race with eight skaters in the final, so the key was to stay in the first half of the group to avoid wasting too much energy trying to come back,” said Charles Hamelin. “I had to make a few crafty manoeuvres to pass some skaters and stay there. With a few laps to go, I was in front but I felt that I didn't have the legs to finish at the same pace, so I mostly concentrated on managing my energy level. At the end, the Russian went around me and so did the Korean. I tried to step it up but I almost tripped, so I then I just tried to make sure I would come away with a medal.”
Samuel Girard followed his teammate to finish 4th in 2:14.396. The rookie skater from Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., therefore came up with his best overall performance in five career World Cups so far, after earning a 5th-place result at the 1500m held in Salt Lake City to start the season.
“It was a high-level race with plenty of experienced skaters, but I was able to hold my own. I followed the strategy that had been set out and I was able to battle it out,” said the 18-year-old skater. “I'm happy with this fourth-place finish, but also with my progression so far this season. I've learned at every World Cup so far and it bodes well for my participation in the upcoming junior and senior World Championships.”
On the women's side
The relay victory was welcome relief after a hard day on the women's side in terms of individual results.
All three Canadian skaters taking part in the second women's 1500m of the weekend made it to the A final. But Maltais, Bélanger, and Boutin settled for 5th, 6th and 7th place, respectively, in a group that also included South Korea's Shim Suk Hee, silver medalist in the 1500m at the Sochi Olympic Games, and Kim Alang, silver medalist in the 1500 at the 2014 World Championships held in Montreal. Shim and Kim respectively won gold and silver, Sunday.
Bélanger can take away some satisfaction, however, from the fact that she skated in her first-ever A final in two individual races so far at the senior level, after placing 9th in Saturday's 1500m in Dresden, as a result of coming up with 3rd place in the B final. She earned her spot in the A final after being granted a spot because her fall in the semi-final, which happened while she was skating in 2nd place, was cause by an opponent.
“The final was skated at a very fast pace and usually, a race that starts off fast ends up being slower at the finish. But this time, it didn't slow down. I did my best to try and hang on,” said Bélanger.
In the women's 500m, St-Gelais, Bradette and Phaneuf were all eliminated in the quarterfinals. St-Gelais, who won a bronze medal in Saturday's 1000m race in Dresden, and Phaneuf finished fourth in their respective heats, while Bradette was penalized.
“I had a bit of bad luck, I stepped on the blade of an opponent, which took away all the bite I had in my blade. I couldn't do anything after that,” explained St-Gelais.
The sixth and final World Cup of the season will take place Feb. 13-15 in Erzurum, Turkey. The World Championships will follow one month later in Moscow, Russia.
TODAY'S CANADIAN RESULTS:
-François Hamelin: silver medal (overall ranking: 2)
-Olivier Jean: penalty in the A final (overall ranking: 5)
-Guillaume Bastille: 2nd in the repechage semi-finals and eliminated (overall ranking: 21)
1500m M (2)
-Charles Hamelin: bronze medal (overall ranking: 3)
-Samuel Girard: 4th in the A final (overall ranking: 4)
-Patrick Duffy: 2nd in the B final (overall ranking: 10)
-Canada: 4th in the B final (Samuel Girard, Charles Hamelin, Patrick Duffy, Olivier Jean, Guillaume Bastille, François Hamelin) (overall ranking: 8)
-Marianne St-Gelais: 4th in the quarterfinals and eliminated (overall ranking: 13)
-Audrey Phaneuf: 4th in the quartefinals and eliminated (overall ranking: 15)
-Kasandra Bradette: penalty in the quarterfinals and eliminated (overall ranking: 16)
1500m W (2)
-Valérie Maltais: 5th in the A final (overall ranking: 5)
-Genève Bélanger: 6h in the A final (overall ranking: 6)
-Kim Boutin: 7th in the A final (overall ranking: 7)
- Canada: gold medal Marianne St-Gelais, Kasandra Bradette, Audrey Phaneuf, Kim Boutin, Genève Bélanger, Valérie Maltais) (overall ranking: 1)
More information is available at Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.