Credit: International Skating Union

The Canadian short track team reached the top step of the podium on Sunday, capturing gold in an exciting men’s relay final at the World Cup in Nagoya.

It marked a return to the podium for the men’s squad of Charles Hamelin, Pascal Dion, Jordan Pierre-Gilles and Steven Dubois, who last won gold at the 2020 World Cup in Dordrecht, the final event before the COVID-19 pandemic put international competition on hold.

After spending much of the race in second place, Dubois gained speed thanks to a strong final exchange from Pierre-Gilles and successfully passed his Chinese counterpart from the outside in the last turn to move ahead and claim the gold. Canada finished the 5000m distance in 6:52.272 and were joined on the podium by China (6:52.285) and Hungary (6:52.386).

The medal shows great progression for a traditionally strong men’s relay team, who finished a disappointing seventh at last weekend’s World Cup in Beijing thanks to a penalty in the semifinals.

Relay medalist Pascal Dion also captured his second bronze medal of the season on Sunday, repeating the performance in the men’s 1000m that he put forth at last weekend’s competition in Beijing.

Dion was in fourth place with two laps remaining in the final when Shaolin Sandor Liu of Hungary slid into the mats after passing China’s Ren Ziwei to move into first place. The Canadian was able to hold off a charging Brandon Kim of the U.S. to cling onto third place until the finish.

The 27-year-old clocked in with a time of 1:26.554, placing him behind Itzhak de Laat (1:26.533) of the Netherlands and Ren Ziwei of China (1:26.297). With a pair of bronze medals to his name, the Montreal native currently sits atop the 1000m World Cup rankings with 12,800 points, 2,519 ahead of his closest competitor.

Things also looked promising in the women’s 1000m final, but Courtney Sarault and Kim Boutin both narrowly missed out on the podium, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. American Kristen Santos captured gold (1:30.013), ahead of Dutch skaters Suzanne Schulting (1:30.077) and Xandra Velzeboer (1:30.089).

Sarault, who bounced between the top three positions throughout the race, was unable to block a pass from Schulting, who overtook her from the outside in the last lap to move into medal position. Boutin, meanwhile, raced from the back of the pack and was unable to find an opportunity to make a move toward the front.

The Canadian short track team will return to action in three weeks with World Cup stops in Debrecen, Hungary (November 18-21) and Dordrecht, Netherlands (November 25-28). They will continue working towards their goal of securing the maximum number of individual distance quota spots and qualifying all three relay teams for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

Quota spots for Beijing 2022 are based on the best three of four results in a respective distance. A top-32 ranking is required for the 500m and 1000m, while a top-36 finish is needed for the 1500m. For the relays, the top eight men’s and women’s teams will qualify, while 12 mixed relay teams will have the opportunity to compete in the discipline when it makes its Olympic debut this winter.

“Honestly, we could not have hoped for a better race. Winning the gold medal is an incredible feeling and is a great end to our trip in Asia. We are all excited for what comes next, but we’ll start by celebrating a bit and appreciating this win.”

– Jordan Pierre-Gilles

“It was a difficult weekend for me, but I think it was a big upgrade compared to last week in Beijing. I made two A Finals, which proves that I am capable of skating among the top five in the world. I am slowly getting better and better and finding my form again.”

– Kim Boutin

“I’m happy with my path to the A Final today. I thought I had some good races and made some good moves. In the final, I wasted a bit more energy than I wanted to during one of my passes. I think the strategy I had in mind was good, but my execution needs a bit of tweaking. Overall, I’m proud of these first two weeks and hopefully things keep going up from here.”

– Courtney Sarault

“I am feeling great and very happy about the turn of events with my medal in the 1000m and the one in the relay. In the 1000m, I think that if everything is aligned I am capable of producing good races and I proved that over the past two weekends. At the international level, I have never been very confident in individual races, but now I’ve seen what I am capable of. I worked on my weak points over the past two years and that is showing.”

– Pascal Dion

“I saw that the Chinese skater in front lost his footing during the exchange so I knew that he wasn’t totally in control. I knew that I had the legs to go fast, so I waiting until he slowed a bit and there was space on the outside for a pass. If I had stayed in second, the Hungarian was coming fast, so I didn’t have a choice. Before the race, we told ourselves that we were going to win. That’s our objective for the year in the relay aim for the gold and see what happens!”

– Steven Dubois