Claudia Heeney reached the podium at the 2019 ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships, winning the bronze medal in a thrilling 1000m ladies final.
Heeney, 17, was in the mix from the very start of the final race but her spot on the podium became all but guaranteed after a collision during the fifth lap took out two of the five skaters in the field. Her time of 1:32.422 placed her in third, behind Park Yoon Jung of Korea (1:31.784) and Li Jinyu of China (1:31.258).
“Before the race I was really excited because I knew it was going to be a fun one. And once we started going, I saw a medal within reach and I went for it,” said Heeney, who won three medals at the Canadian junior short track championships in December to earn a spot on the national team for the world championships.
The Waterloo, Ont. native made it through four rounds of races on Sunday – heats, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals – to capture her first ever World Junior Championship medal. She advanced through to both the semis and finals as a fastest third-place skater, forced to wait impatiently until the conclusion of each round to see if she was going to be moving on.
“I don’t think I can find a word other than awesome,” she said with a smile when asked to describe how she felt about her performance. “In every round, I gave it my all and fought hard for positioning, and I’m really proud with how things finished.”
Courtney Sarault of Moncton, N.B., yesterday’s bronze medalist in the 1500m, was penalized in the quarterfinals of the 1000m and ended the day ranked 19th in a field of 61 skaters.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise impressive junior career, one that saw her win four medals over the course of three world championship appearances. She was crowned vice-champion (second overall) last year in Poland, and due to a change in the competition format, will be the last Canadian ever to earn that distinction.
Nicolas Perreault of Sherbrooke, Que. finished the men’s 1000m as the ninth best ranked skater, coming in fourth-place in the B Finals with a time of 1:38.507.
Matej Pederson of Calgary, Alta. made a beautiful outside pass in the final lap of his heat to assure himself a spot in the quarters, but a crash in that race put an end to his medal hopes. He finished the distance ranked 20th.
Juliette Brindamour of Toronto, Ont. and Félix Pigeon of Saint-Pie, Que. participated in the ranking finals during the morning session, skating to 56th and 41st place results, respectively.
Earlier in the day, the Canadian men’s relay team competed in the 3000m B Final against Hungary, Kazakhstan and the United States. They were at the front of the pack with only four laps to go when Perreault unfortunately lost his edge rounding the corner and slammed into the mats, ending their chances for a promising result.
Kazakhstan took the top spot in the B Finals, while medals were won by China, Netherlands and Russia in the A Final. The Chinese squad established a new junior world record with a time of 3:58.501.
On the women’s side, Korea won gold thanks to a world record pace of their own (4:14.699). They were joined on the podium by Russia and Italy.
Sunday marked the end of the three-day international short track competition that welcomed 172 of the world’s top junior skaters, representing 36 countries, to the Maurice-Richard Arena in Montreal. Over 200 volunteers helped ensure a successful event, which had to be organized in less than three months time after the Korea Skating Union relinquished hosting duties last fall.
Korea led the way with a total of seven medals, followed by China (5), Netherlands (3), Italy (3), Russia (2), Canada (2), Japan (1) and the USA (1).