Why are Quebec's short-track speed skaters so good?

The province's competitive circuit and strong coaches may be why the bulk of Canada's short-track speed skaters come from Quebec.

All but 1 of Canada's short-track Olympic athletes hail from Quebec

Canadian short-track speed skater Kim Boutin has won two bronze medals, in the 500 m and 1500 m, at the Pyeongchang Olympics. (CBC)

Juliette Brindamour was awake well before the sun rose on Tuesday morning, watching the women's short-track speed skating event from her bed.

The 18-year-old's morning speed skating practice was cancelled so she and her teammates could watch the athletes compete in Pyeongchang.

She was elated to watch Sherbrooke's Kim Boutin finish the 500-metre race with a bronze medal.

"I was thrilled. It was amazing," she said. "It was really an Olympic moment, I would say."

An established athlete herself, Brindamour is on Team Quebec and is a junior skater at Montreal's regional training centre.

For Brindamour and her teammates, the athletes competing in the Olympics are more than anonymous figures on screens.

There are 10 people on Canada's short-track team, and nine of them are from Quebec. Brindamour knows Boutin personally from seeing her around the rink.

"I've trained with her a couple times.... She seems super nice and always cheerful," she said.

Hotspot for emerging talent

Quebec has become a training hub for Canadian short-track skaters. After the Olympics, an international short-track championship is set to be held in Montreal in March.

High-level teams, including the national team, train in Montreal. Brindamour is originally from Ontario but moved to Quebec to take advantage of training opportunities. 

She said some of those elite-level athletes go on to teach younger skaters, creating a continuum of skating talent.

Competitive at an early age

Marc Gagnon knows a thing or two about winning. He's a five-time Olympic medalist and the head coach of the Canadian regional speed skating training centre based in Montreal.

He says the secret to forging competitive athletes is holding competitions for young skaters. Gagnon said athletes of all levels can compete in Quebec because its competition circuit is well-established.  

"You want to be good in competitions, you have to compete. Training is not enough," he said.

He said he encourages his athletes to dream big — and then put in the work to make their dreams reality.

"Be ready to work hard. Understand that if you do work hard, anything can happen," he said.

Olympic dreams

As for Brindamour, she hopes to compete at the Olympics herself in a few years. She said watching from home has been an inspiring experience.

"I think everybody's feeling super motivated," said Brindamour. "The vibe is nice. Everyone's really enjoying the Olympics."