Four out of five Canadian skaters have a perfect day in qualifying at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2016
Speed Skating Canada – Seoul, South Korea, March 11, 2016 – Four of the five Canadian skaters competing in individual races at the 2016 ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Seoul reached the final rounds in each of their three scheduled events, Friday, as Marianne St-Gelais, Valérie Maltais, Kasandra Bradette and Samuel Girard all qualified for the 500m and 1000m quarterfinals as well as the 1500m semifinals.
The only blemish came when Charles Hamelin, who qualified for the elimination rounds in the 1000m and 1500m events, fell in the heats of the 500m. He did not finish the race and has therefore lost all chances of a podium result in that distance.
Marianne St-Gelais, of Saint-Félicien, QC, qualified for the 500m and 1000m quarterfinals. The skater who is aiming to finish among the top three overall and to win a world title in at least one distance in Seoul had a little scare in Friday’s 1500m qualifying, however. Skating in a high-calibre heat that included Great Britain’s Elise Christie and China’s Fan Kexin, she finished third. She still qualified for the semifinals after coming up with one of the four fastest times among the third-place finishers in their respective heats.
“I knew it was going to be a tough race,” said St-Gelais of her 1500m heat. “I was aiming to win the race or finish second to put myself in a better position for the rest of the competition, but the fact remains that I qualified for the semifinals, which is the most important thing.”
Marianne St-Gelais admitted she was nervous early in the day, but she said she got her confidence back in the 500m and 1000m.
“Fridays are different at the World Championships in the sense that there are no repechage heats like on the World Cup circuit, so there’s no opportunity to make amends if you don’t qualify on the first day,” she said. “But in the second round of today’s 500m, I found my legs and felt good, and I told myself that I just needed to have confidence in my abilities. And I liked the way I skated. It gave me a boost for the 1000m after that.”
The two other skaters taking part in the women’s individual events in Seoul, Valérie Maltais of Saguenay (La Baie borough), QC, and Kasandra Bradette of Saint-Félicien, QC, both also qualified for the 500m and 1000m quarterfinals, as well as for the 1500m semifinals.
Valérie Maltais will be looking, this weekend, to finish once again among the top-3 in overall standings as she did in 2014 in Montreal (third) and in 2012 in Shanghai, China (second). To reach that goal, she has set a very realistic initial objective, which is to reach the A final in each of the three distances.
“I’m taking it one race at a time,” said Maltais, who usually skates in the longer distances on the World Cup circuit. “I was a little nervous in the 500m because, like I often say to my coaches, when it comes to starts in that distance I’m good part-time; but it went well today, and I managed my race well, like I did in the 1000m and 1500m. At the same time, I kept some energy for the weekend, so it was a satisfying day.”
As for Kasandra Bradette, she has decided to approach her second career World Championships by putting aside any expectations that bring her to put pressure on herself.
“I’m not skating with the same stress I put on myself last year, even if I’m looking to earn some good results,” she said. “I know I’m in top form, and that all I need to do is to go out on the ice and apply what I’ve learned.”
Samuel Girard has a different outlook
On the men’s side, Samuel Girard finished first in each of the five heats he skated in on Friday to reach the quarterfinals in the 500m and 1000m events, as well as the 1500m semifinals.
“I had a great day, everything I’ve worked on this season came together. It went like I wanted. I’m therefore aiming to reach the final rounds and going for the win, like I did this season on the World Cup circuit,” said Samuel Girard who, at age 19, is taking part in his second career World Championships.
“It’s a very different feeling as compared to last year. I’m facing the same skaters, but the fact that I now have more experience and that I came here well prepared – notably by not going to the last World Cup stage this season in order to train – gives me the feeling that I can compete at the same level as everyone.”
Because he fell in his second 500m heat with two laps to go, Charles Hamelin of Sainte-Julie, QC, made it harder on himself to reach the main goal he set for himself at these World Championships; the skater who won the world title in the 1500m distance in 2014 in Montreal and in the 500m in 2009 in Vienna is aiming to finish first in overall standings and therefore be crowned 2016 World Champion.
“My left boot touched the ice and I lost my balance. It’s too bad that it happened here, because this kind of thing rarely happens to me,” said Charles Hamelin, who finished first in Friday’s preliminary round in the 500m.
“I sort of shot myself in the foot as far as my chances of picking up the world title (overall), but it remains my objective,” he added. “I will try to collect the maximum amount of points in the 1000m and 1500m to give myself the best chances possible to battle for the title, and we’ll see where it leads me.”
After his misfortune in the 500m, the veteran skater came back strong in the 1000m that followed, as he finished first in each of his two races on his way to qualifying for the quarterfinals in that distance. And to kick off the day, he finished first in his 1500m heat to reach the semifinals.
“The good news is that I feel strong physically,” said Charles Hamelin. “I didn’t injure myself when I fell… it’s just my pride that was hit a little.”
The events slated for Saturday are the 1500m and the 500m, two distances where Marianne St-Gelais won bronze in the past, in the 1500m at the 2013 World Championships as well as in the 500m distance in 2010. Charles Hamelin won gold in the 1500m at the 2014 World Championships in Montreal.
The relay semifinals will also take place on Saturday – Canada already has a spot in both the men’s and women’s races — and the finals will follow on Sunday.
TODAY’S CANADIAN RESULTS
Kasandra Bradette: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Saturday
Valérie Maltais: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Saturday
Marianne St-Gelais: 2nd in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Saturday
Samuel Girard: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Saturday
Charles Hamelin: fell in the heats and eliminated
Marianne St-Gelais: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Sunday
Valérie Maltais: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Sunday
Kasandra Bradette: 2nd in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Sunday
Charles Hamelin: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Sunday
Samuel Girard: 1st in the heats and will take part in the quarterfinals Sunday
Valérie Maltais: first in the heats and will take part in the semifinals Saturday
Kasandra Bradette: second in the heats and will take part in the semifinals Saturday
Marianne St-Gelais: third in the heats and will take part in the semifinals Saturday as one of
the four fastest third place skaters
Charles Hamelin: first in the heats and will take part in the semifinals Saturday
Samuel Girard: first in the heats and will take part in the semifinals Saturday
More information is available at Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.
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