Canadian Junior Championships Crown New Speed Skating Champions

Results set the stage for naming of teams that will represent Canada at World Junior Championships and World Single Distance Championships

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Connor Howe and Alexa Scott were named Canadian Junior Long Track Champions at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on January 6, 2019. Photo by Dave Holland

CALGARY, ALBERTA – Alexa Scott of Clandeboye, Man. and Connor Howe of Calgary, Alta. were crowned Canadian Junior Long Track Champions at the Olympic Oval in Calgary on Sunday. The overall titles earned them each a spot on the World Junior Championships team, where they will be joined by a minimum of three additional skaters per gender.

 

Scott, who will return for her second World Junior Championships, earned the most points among the field of 30 female athletes at the Canadian event, which was presented by Intact Insurance. She skated to gold medals in all four distances that contribute to the overall title – the 500m (40.10), 1000m (1:18.41), 1500m (2:01.09) and 3000m (4:19.68) – edging her competitors by a significant margin in each race.

 

“This has been my goal all season and it went even better than my expectations,” explained Scott about her performance. “It was a rewarding weekend. I had a breakthrough in my times at a competition earlier this year and it was reassuring to see that it wasn’t a fluke! I want to keep building going into World Junior Championships so I can continue to make strides in improving my time.”

 

Howe, whose races counted for both the World Single Distance Skate-Off and the Canadian Junior Championships, clocked the fastest time among junior skaters for three of the four distances. He finished within the top ten among Canada’s best senior skaters in each of the 500m (35.48), 1000m (1:08.78), 1500m (1:44.16) and 5000m (6:50.24) races, winning the 1500m distance in the Skate-Off and setting a new Canadian Junior record in the process.

 

“I’m really happy to be the Allround champion,” said Howe, who will participate in the World Junior Championships for the third consecutive season. “I’m looking forward to Worlds, where I think I have a good chance to improve on my results from the past two years and to work with my teammates as strong contenders in the team events.”

 

Gabrielle Jelonek of Quebec picked up silver medals in the 1000m, 1500m and 3000m, along with a bronze in the 500m, to finish second overall on the ladies’ side. Rounding out the Allround podium was Quebec’s Ophelie Juneau, who ended each race one position behind Jelonek.

 

In men’s competition, the runner-up was Quebec’s Hubert Marcotte, who found the podium in all four distances. With Howe absent from these junior races, Marcotte competed against a field of 51 athletes, skating to a gold medal in the 500m and 1000m, silver in the 1500m and bronze in the 5000m.

 

Jack Deibert of Alberta was third overall, thanks in large part to his silver medal performance in the men’s distance event – the 5000m. He finished off the podium in the remaining distances, placing fourth in the 1500m, fifth in the 1000m and eighth in the 500m.

 

The results from the Canadian Junior Long Track Championships will be used to select the team of at least four ladies and four men who will compete at the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Baselga di Piné, Italy from February 15-17, 2019. The final list of athletes representing Canada at this event will be released in the coming weeks.

 

Top skaters race for their spot on World Single Distance Championships team

 

Canada’s top senior long track speed skaters were also in action at the Olympic Oval this weekend, vying for the remaining quota spots to represent Canada at the World Single Distance Championships in Inzell, Germany from February 7-10, 2019.

 

Of particular note from the Skate-Off results, Laurent Dubreuil of Lévis, Que. raced to a time of 34.11 in the men’s 500m, clocking the seventh fastest time ever skated in the distance. He also earned a first-place finish in the 1000m, while Calgary’s Ted-Jan Bloemen claimed top spot in the 5000m and Jess Neufeld of Winnipeg, Man. crossed the line first in the men’s mass start. The men’s 10,000m will be contested on Monday.

 

“My weekend went really well,” said a pleased Dubreuil. “Last year, I trained hard to improve my 500m for the Olympics and this season it’s been my goal to make it back to the top ten in the 1000m. I set a new personal best here so I’m very excited for the second half of the season now. I’m also in the thick of it with my 500m and hoping to win a medal at the World Championships.”

 

Heather McLean of Winnipeg, Man. finished first in both the ladies 500m and 1000m. She’s certain that she’s peaking at the right time: “I started off this season a little bit slower, but I’m confident in the build we’ve had and by the time February and the World Championships comes around I will be ready. I dealt with an injury earlier this season, so I was just really happy this weekend to compete and be healthy.”

 

Valerie Maltais of Saguenay, Que., who is competing in her first season of long track speed skating after a successful short track career, clocked the fastest time in the 1500m. She also finished second in the 3000m and ladies mass start, both behind Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin who had already guaranteed herself a spot at the World Championships based on her results so far this season.

 

“Today, I was feeling good and excited to race,” explained Maltais about her 1500m, in which she set a personal best. “It was an opportunity for me to continue getting better. I’m still going through a learning process and I think there’s still so much I can improve on, like pacing myself and having confidence in my speed. But it’s so much less stressful than short track!”

 

The skaters who will represent Canada at each of this season’s long track World Championships – the Single Distance, Sprint and Allround events – will be named in the coming weeks.