Rookie Genève Bélanger qualified for the semi-finals of a women’s 1500m event in her first career competition at the senior level while veteran Olivier Jean earned a spot in the men’s 500m quarterfinals in his first World Cup of the season, Friday, on the first day of the ISU short track speed skating event held in Dresden, Germany.
Bélanger, a 17-year-old Montrealer, finished second in her heat behind Italian skater Arianna Fontana, to reach the semifinals of the women’s first 1500m set to take place Saturday. Another 1500m will be raced Sunday and in that competition, Bélanger finished third of her heat. She will therefore have to go through the repechage heats, Sunday morning, to go further.
“I had already talent part in World Junior Championships, but I saw here how big the difference is at the senior level, where skaters know how to race and are much better strategically,” said Bélanger. “Still, I wasn’t too nervous, I just had a few butterflies during the warm-up and they went away as soon as the racing started. And being reunited with (national team coach) Frédéric Blackburn, who coached me when I was younger, also helped me to calm down.”
Bélanger also helped the Canadian women’s relay post the day’s best time in the 3000m race (4:13.107), as along with Valérie Maltais, Marianne St-Gelais and Kim Boutin, she allowed Canada to finish first in their heat to qualify for Saturday’s semi-final race.
Olivier Jean finished first of his heat in the 500m prelims and heats rounds Friday, allowing him to reach the quarterfinals set for Sunday. Also registered for the first of the two 1500m men’s races set for the weekend, he will have to go through Saturday’s morning repechage in that event.
“After being away from the international scene for six months, I was a little nervous before my first race of the day, in the 1500m, even if I felt quite good on the ice during the week. My race went very well, but unfortunately I fell (following a contact with a Chinese skater) towards the end,” said Jean, who did not take part in fall competitions because he wanted to finish his university studies in kinesiology. “And after that I had great races in the 500m event, where I was able to show a lot of speed and stability. I had one of the fastest times of the day, which showed me that everything was going well on the ice.”
The 30-year-old skater from Lachenaie, Que., also raced in Friday’s 5000m men’s relay heats and quarterfinals races with the Canadian team, as did Patrick Duffy. They helped Canada qualify for Saturday’s semifinals. Samuel Girard and Guillaume Bastille skated in the first round, while brothers Charles and François Hamelin took over alongside Jean and Duffy in the quarterfinals that followed, and posted the fastest time of that round (6:44.537).
Perfect day for three veterans
For their part, veterans Marianne St-Gelais, of Saint-Félicien, Que., Valérie Maltais, from Saguenay (La Baie), Que. and Charles Hamelin, of Sainte-Julie, Que., all directly reached the elimination rounds in their events.
St-Gelais, who will be looking to win an individual medal in a fifth straight World Cup this season, qualified for the quarterfinals in the Saturday’s 1000m as well as in Sunday’s 500m.
“We hadn’t skated at a World Cup since December, so it was good to return to the ice and get back into it”, said St-Gelais. “The first day is always stressful because you want to avoid mistakes that will cost you, but I felt good out there.”
Maltais, who has one individual medal in two World Cups so far this season – a bronze in the women’s 1000m in Salt Lake City -, skated to spots in both women’s 1500m races, set for Saturday and Sunday.
Charles Hamelin, who has won four individual World Cup medals in 2014-15, will take part in Saturday’s 1000m quarterfinals as well as in Sunday’s 1500m semifinals. In the latter race, he will be joined by both his teammates, Girard and Duffy, who also qualified, as all three Canadian skaters have gone through directly to that stage.
“It was a good day for me, and skating in the same heat as Victor An twice was a good thing, because it allowed me to pick up some useful information for the upcoming World Championships,” said Charles Hamelin. “I made a few small mistakes in the way I dealt with him, but we’ll make sure to correct that for the next races.”
Kim Boutin, of Sherbrooke, Que., continued to do well in her first World Cup season as she qualified for Saturday’s 1000m quarterfinals and Sunday’s 1500m semi-finals.
On the men’s side, François Hamelin, of Sainte-Julie, Que., and Patrick Duffy, of Oakville, Ont., also reached the final rounds directly in both their events. François Hamelin will skate in Saturday’s 1500m semifinals and Sunday’s 500m quarterfinals, while Duffy will take part in Saturday’s 1000m quarterfinals and Sunday’s 1500m semi-finals.
As for the other Canadian skaters, Kasandra Bradette, of Saint-Félicien, Que., qualified for Sunday’s 500m but will have to go through repechage heats for Saturday’s 1000m; rookie Samuel Girard, of Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., reached the semi-finals in Sunday’s 1500m and will take part in repechage heats, Saturday morning, in the men’s 1000m; and veteran Guillaume Bastille, of Rivière-du-Loup, Que., will need to go through repechage heats in both his events (Saturday’s 1500m and Sunday’s 500m), as will Audrey Phaneuf, of Boucherville, Que., in Saturday’s 1500m and Sunday’s 500m.
Canada’s national team has won 17 medals including two gold, six silver and nine bronze at the four World Cups so far this season.
Following International Skating Union rules, competitors may only participate in one individual event each day of the World Cup. One distance is always held twice at each World Cup, so that by the end of the season each distance is held eight times. In Dresden, the 1500m event will be held twice.
TODAY’S CANADIAN RESULTS:
-François Hamelin 1st in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
-Olivier Jean: 1st in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
-Guillaume Bastille: 3rd in the heats and will take part in the repechage Sunday
-Charles Hamelin: 1st in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
-Patrick Duffy: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
-Samuel Girard: 3rd in the heats and will take part in the repechage Saturday
1500m M (1)
-François Hamelin: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
-Guillaume Bastille: 4th in the heats and will take part in the repechage Saturday
-Olivier Jean: 6th in the heats and will take part in the repechage Saturday
1500m M (2)
-Charles Hamelin: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Sunday
-Patrick Duffy: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Sunday
-Samuel Girard: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Sunday
-Canada: 1st in the quarterfinals and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday (Patrick Duffy, Olivier Jean, Samuel Girard, Guillaume Bastille, Charles Hamelin, François Hamelin)
-Marianne St-Gelais: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
-Kasandra Bradette: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday
-Audrey Phaneuf: 3rd in the heats and will take part in the repechage Sunday
-Marianne St-Gelais: 1st in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
-Kim Boutin: 1st in the heats and qualified for the quarterfinals Saturday
-Kasandra Bradette: 4th in the heats and will take part in the repechage Saturday
1500m W (1)
-Genève Bélanger: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
-Valérie Maltais: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday
-Audrey Phaneuf: 3rd in the heats and will take part in the repechage Saturday
1500m W (2)
-Valérie Maltais: 1st in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Sunday
-Kim Boutin: 2nd in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Sunday
-Genève Bélanger: 3rd in the heats and will take part in the repechage Sunday
– Canada: 1st in the heats and qualified for the semi-finals Saturday (Kim Boutin, Genève Bélanger, Valérie Maltais, Marianne St-Gelais)
More information is available at Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.
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