Canada's St-Gelais wins short-track silver
Canadian men make 5,000 relay final on Feb. 26
Canada's Marianne St-Gelais celebrated her 20th birthday with a silver medal in the 500-metre short-track speedskating final Wednesday at the Vancouver Olympics.
St-Gelais crossed the line in 43.707 seconds for Canada's sixth medal of the 2010 Games.
"I'm still the rookie, but I've made a name for myself," St-Gelais said.
Defending Olympic champion Wang Meng of China was too strong throughout the four rounds of competition, taking the early lead in the final en route to a winning time of 43.048 seconds at Pacific Coliseum.
St-Gelais, of Saint-Félicien, Que., skated aggressively throughout the competition to earn the medal. She won her quarter-final heat and then finished second to Meng in the semis.
St-Gelais was the world junior champion in the 500 in 2009.
Canada had a shot at two medals from the final, but Calgary's Jessica Gregg got boxed out at the start and couldn't recover.
Arianna Fontana of Italy won bronze.
After her race, teammates of St-Gelais gathered behind the rink to sing her Happy Birthday. She emerged to give boyfriend Charles Hamelin, the team's top male skater, a long hug.
"Apart from having a gold medal, silver is the best gift I could have had," said an emotional St-Gelais. "Second place for my 20th birthday, that works well."
The first attempt to race appeared to be a disaster for Canada, but Gregg and St-Gelais crashed before the first turn, necessitating a restart.
Wang won her fourth career Olympic medal and second gold.
As a result a tough semifinal heat that included Wang and St-Gelais, Kalyna Roberge of Saint- Étienne-de-Lauzon, Que., did not advance to the final.
Roberge, who won silver at the Torino Games as part of Canada's 3,000-metre relay team, went on to finish second in the B final.
Hamelins take 1st step
St-Gelais may have more reason to celebrate later this month.
In the men's 1,000, Charles Hamelin set an Olympic record to win his opening heat.
The Sainte-Julie, Que., native finished in 1:25.256. He is looking to hit the podium after having to settle for winning the B final in the 1,500 earlier in the Games.
The record was broken in a later heat by Sung Si-Bak, who skated in 1:24.245.
His brother, Francois Hamelin, won his heat in 1:25.714 to advance to the quarter-finals.
Six-time Olympic medallist Apolo Ohno of the U.S. easily advanced in his heat.
The men's 1,000 will resume and determine medallists on Saturday evening.
Charles Hamelin came back just over an hour later to help put Canada into the men's 5,000-metre relay final, set to take place on Feb. 26.
Canada was just edged by China in the semifinal heat. The Chinese team was timed at 6:43.601, just 9-100ths of a second ahead.
The Canadian team also includes Guillaume Bastille of Rivière-du-Loup, Que., Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., and Montreal's François-Louis Tremblay.
Short-track powers South Korea and the U.S. were given a boost in their semi that they probably didn't need after skaters from Italy and France crashed just over 2½ minutes into the race.
South Korea won the heat over the Americans by just over two seconds.