Veteran Charles Hamelin leads the way; 6 skaters will make their World Championships debut Feb., 19, 2021PHOTO: Greg Kolz

Ten Canadian short track skaters are gearing up to compete at next month’s ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. It will be the team’s first opportunity to race since the COVID-19 pandemic brought competition to a halt last March.

The World Championships, from March 5-7, 2021, will be the only event of the international short track season after all six World Cups – including those scheduled for Montreal and Laval in November 2020 – were cancelled. Last season ended abruptly when the 2020 World Championships in Seoul, South Korea, became one of the first international sporting events to get cancelled due to the global pandemic.

Leading the way for Canada is national team veteran Charles Hamelin, who will compete in the 17th World Championship of his career. The 2018 world champion has reached the overall podium at the event seven times and won a total of 36 medals over the course of his illustrious career, including 12 gold, 14 silver and 10 bronze.

He will be joined by perennial World Cup medalists Steven Dubois, Courtney Sarault and Alyson Charles, who will each lace up for the second championships of their young careers.

The team will also feature six skaters who will be making their World Championships debut, most notably 17-year old Florence Brunelle, who won a combined four international medals at the World Junior Championships and Youth Olympic Games last season. She will be joined by fellow first-timers Danaé Blais and Claudia Gagnon on the women’s side, as well as male skaters Maxime Laoun, Jordan Pierre-Gilles and William Dandjinou.

These World Championships will mark a triumphant return to international competition for 24-year old Laoun. The Montreal native was sidelined for over a year after suffering a severe injury –a triple spiral fracture of the tibia and a facture of the fibula – during a training session in November 2019. After months of rehab, he will return to the ice and look to regain the form that helped him finish third overall at the last Canadian Short Track Championships and earn a fifth-place result in the 1000m at last season’s World Cup in Montreal.

Brunelle, Sarault, Hamelin, Dubois and Laoun are confirmed as participants in the individual distances. The remaining skaters will lace up for the men’s and women’s relays, respectively.

As announced last week, triple Olympic medalist and 500m world record holder Kim Boutin will not compete at these World Championships. She has taken a step back in order to recharge and refocus on her preparations for Beijing 2022.

Given the inability to host domestic or international competitions this season, nominations to the World Championships team were based upon an in-depth evaluation of the skaters by the coaching staff. It was up to each athlete, coach and staff member to choose whether or not they wanted to travel to Dordrecht for the competition, based on their level of comfort and personal situation.

The full list of athletes who will compete at the ISU World Short Track Championships in Dordrecht can be found below:

  • Florence Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, Que.)
  • Courtney Sarault (Moncton, N.B.)
  • Alyson Charles (Montréal, Que.)
  • Danaé Blais (Châteauguay, Que.)
  • Claudia Gagnon (La Baie, Que.)
  • Substitute: Camille De Serres-Rainville (Montréal, Que.)
  • Charles Hamelin (Sainte-Julie, Que.)
  • Steven Dubois (Lachenaie, Que.)
  • Maxime Laoun (Montréal, Que.)
  • William Dandjinou (Verdun, Que.)
  • Jordan Pierre-Gilles (Sherbrooke, Que.)
  • Substitute: Nicolas Perreault (Sherbrooke, Que.)

“I am excited about this team. We have six athletes who will participate in their first career World Championships. And once again, the unbeatable Charles Hamelin will be there to lead and guide our youth. Everyone has worked hard over the past few months under difficult circumstances. Since the beginning of January, we have had great intensity in training; the physical form is there, and we will be ready to race. Without benchmarks for this season, our ability to adapt and challenge the Europeans, who have had opportunities to compete, will be of utmost importance. That said, we are not going to the World Championships to get some fresh air, we want to perform regardless of the conditions we’ve dealt with the last few months. It’s the only competition of the year, so it’s up to us to be bold and seize the opportunity.” – Sébastien Cros, National Team Coach