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Canada's short track speed skaters 'a real team'

Led by Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais, Canada's 12-member short track speed skating team will try to carry the momentum from last year's success, starting this weekend in Calgary at the first World Cup stage of the 2016-17 season.

Ex-Olympic champion-turned analyst Catriona Le May Doan likes veteran-youth mix

Clockwise from top: Marianne St-Gelais, Jamie Macdonald, Charles Hamelin and Samuel Girard lead Canada's 12-member senior national short track speed skating team that will attempt to build on a successful 2015-16 season. (Getty Images/CBC Sports)

Catriona Le May Doan is reminded of the dominant long track speed skating teams she was part of in the late 1990s when eyeing the talent for the first two ISU World Cup short track events of the 2016-17 season.

CBCSports.ca is live streaming the short track speed skating event from Calgary, beginning Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.

The World Cup event will also be featured on our Road to the Olympic Games shows on Saturday (CBC TV, CBCSports.ca, 3 p.m. ET).

Building momentum

Nineteen years after Susan Auch, Jeremy Wotherspoon and six of their teammates won five Olympic medals, 18 world championship medals and 42 World Cup medals, Charles Hamelin, Marianne St-Gelais and 10 other men and women will attempt to carry the momentum from last year's success, starting this weekend at Calgary's Olympic Oval.

"They've become a real team and I think we've seen that the last couple of years in their results," Le May Doan, who will provide analysis for CBC Sports' coverage on Saturday and Sunday, said over the phone this week. "You're seeing various names on the podium and … they're happy for each other because they're real teammates.

"I'm not sure you always saw that [in recent years] but they really feed off each other. It was definitely the way we were a team [years ago]."

This year's national senior team is coming off its most productive World Cup season since 2001-02, a 44-medal showing along with nine others at the world senior championships and one at the world juniors.

Leading the group is Charles Hamelin, 32, a three-time Olympic gold medallist and 26-year-old St-Gelais, who had a career season in 2015-16 with 11 World Cup medals and world championship gold.


Le May Doan, who retired from competition in 2003, said St-Gelais' quiet leadership and experience will be huge for Jamie Macdonald on the women's squad and Cedrik Blais, Pascal Dion and William Preudhomme on the men's side, all of whom were members of the development team a year ago.

"The young girls have someone to follow," said Le May Doan of St-Gelais. "I don't think young athletes always have perspective. As you begin [competing] on the international scene, you want to have perspective but I don't think everybody has it.

"Whether it's life, [having] children, devastating results [on the track] or success, I notice that the perspective changes. Marianne is coming into [this season] with that and these young [athletes] are seeing it."

Le May Doan said the fact Macdonald is now integrated with the team after relocating this past summer from Fort St. James, B.C., to the national training centre in Montreal is important to the team's success.

6 gold medals at 5 World Cups

The first northern B.C. skater to be named to Canada's short track team, the 21-year-old Macdonald won her first-ever individual World Cup medal, a bronze, in the 1,000 metres at the last World Cup of the season last February in Dordrecht, Netherlands.

Hamelin collected six gold medals at five World Cup meets last season and another in the 1,000 at the worlds. His brother Francois, 30, also remains in the mix after winning his first World Cup medal (bronze) and first-ever gold in the 1,500 and 500, respectively.

The challenge for the Canadian team, said Le May Doan, is how Blais, 20, Dion, 22, and Preudhomme, 23, handle the pressure they place on themselves while beginning their pre-Olympic season nearly 450 days ahead of the opening ceremony at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

You're all different [personalities], you have to work together and then you have to figure out how to win ...- CBC Sports analyst Catriona Le May Doan on Canada's short track team

"It's a pre-Olympic season, we can't ignore that," said Le May Doan, a three-time Olympic medallist and five-time world champion who set 13 world records.

"It's a long season and at every [World Cup] stage the athletes will be judging themselves. They will be thinking about what's coming up in 14, 15 months, so it adds an element of stress.

"You also have the stresses of finances," Le May Doan continued. "You're all different [personalities], you have to work together and then you have to figure out how to win, and all of them are below the poverty [line]. It's tough."

The second World Cup stage is Nov. 11-13 in Salt Lake City, followed by Shanghai, China (Dec. 9-11) and Gangneung, South Korea (Dec. 16-18). The final World Cups will be held in February in Dresden, Germany and Minsk, Belarus, with the world championships slated for Rotterdam, Netherlands in March.

Canada's national team

WOMEN

  • Kim Boutin, (Sherbrooke, Que.)
  • Kasandra Bradette (Saint-Felicien, Que.)
  • Marie-Eve Drolet (Chicoutimi, Que.)
  • Jamie Macdonald (Fort St. James, B.C.)
  • Valerie Maltais (Chicoutimi, Que.)
  • Marianne St-Gelais (Saint-Felicien)

MEN

  • Charle Cournoyer (Boucherville, Que.)
  • Pascal Dion (Montreal)
  • Samuel Girard (Ferland-et-Boileau, Que.)
  • Charles Hamelin (Sainte-Julie, Que.)
  • Francois Hamelin (Sainte-Julie)
  • William Preudhomme (Toronto)

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