Road To The Olympic Games

Alyson Charles leads Canadian youth movement at short track season opener

The next generation of women in Canadian short-track speed skating planted its flag on the international stage at the season-opening World Cup in Calgary.

Rookie hauls in 3 medals at World Cup event in Calgary

Canada's Alyson Charles, left, came away with three bronze medals in her short track speed skating World Cup debut in Calgary this weekend. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The next generation of women in Canadian short track speed skating planted its flag on the international stage at the season-opening World Cup in Calgary.

An all-rookie relay team of Alyson Charles and Camille de Serres-Rainville of Montreal, Courtney Sarault of Moncton, N.B., and Claudia Gagnon of Saguenay, Que., set a Canadian record en route to a bronze medal Sunday.

Russia claimed gold and South Korea silver ahead of the Canadians, whose time of four minutes 5.267 seconds on the fast ice at the Olympic Oval erased the previous national best of 4:07.628 set in 2013.

Charles, who turned 20 last week, departed from her first World Cup with three bronze medals. She was third in both 500-metre finals in Calgary.

"It went amazingly well over what I expected coming in here," Charles said. "I'm really proud of myself, what I've accomplished and what we just did on the relay. The chemistry was great."

"We're in the game. It means we deserve to compete with the best and we're ready."

Charles races to another bronze in 500m final:

The 20-year-old from Montreal followed up on her bronze medal in the women's 500 metre event with another bronze medal in the second women's 500 metre event on Sunday, at the season-opening ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in Calgary. 2:22

Sarault, an 18-year-old who also made her World Cup debut in Calgary, was fourth in Sunday's 1,000 metres after claiming silver in Saturday's 1,500.

Gagnon was the oldest on the relay team at 23 and de Serres-Rainville is 19. Alison Desmarais, 21, of Vanderhoof, B.C., helped the relay team advance racing Friday's quarter-final heats.

The World Cup in Calgary kicked off not only the season, but the next quadrennial to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Canada's men were shut out of medals in Calgary. They led the 5,000-metre relay until a mid-race slip by Sam Girard caused him to miss his push exchange.

Girard of Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., Charles Hamelin of Ste-Julie, Que., Charle Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., and Montreal's Pascal Dion also set a Canadian record of 6:29.414, but finished off the podium in fourth.

Charles gains confidence with success in World Cup debut:

The 20-year-old from Montreal reacts to winning two bronze medals in her ISU Short Track World Cup debut in Calgary. 1:09

The Hungarian squad won the men's relay in world-record time of 6:28.625 ahead of runner-up South Korea and the Netherlands in third.

China claimed the first World Cup gold awarded in the mixed relay, which will makes its Olympic debut in Beijing.

Teams are comprised of two men and two women. The Dutch were second and South Korea was third.

Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands won the women's 1,000-metre final. Sofia Prosvirnova of Russia took silver and Veronique Pierron of France the bronze.

Lara van Ruijven of the Netherlands and China's Fan Kexin were first and second ahead of Charles in the women's 500.

Girard placed fourth in the men's 500 metres behind victor Wu Dajing of China, runner-up Abzal Azhgaliyev of Kazakhstan and bronze medallist Shaolin Sandor Liu of Hungary.

Shaoang Liu of Hungary, Ji Won Park of South Korea and Ren Ziwei of China placed first to third, respectively, in the men's 1,000 metres.

Canadian women capture relay bronze:

Alyson Charles, Camille de Serres-Rainville, Claudia Gagnon and Courtney Sarault skated to a bronze medal in the women's 3,000 metre relay, at the first ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating event of the season in Calgary. 6:41

The women's team continued breakout performances by Canada's young short-trackers from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Girard, 21, won gold in the 1,000 metres and 23-year-old Kim Boutin collected a silver and two bronze in the women's individual races in Pyeongchang.

Boutin didn't compete in Calgary. She is training, but has delayed the start of her racing season until December, according to coach Fred Blackburn.

Boutin sent a supportive text message to Charles on Friday before her teammate's first World Cup races.

"She just gave me comfort when I needed to start this competition," Charles said. "Just being able to train with her ... that just helps me to be better."

Funding for Canadian athletes considered five to eight years from their peak performance, known as next-generation or "NextGen" athletes, kicked in after the 2016 federal budget.

Watch Day 3:

The final day of competition at the ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup from Calgary, Alberta. 4:19:57

Sport Canada provides up to $5 million per year specifically for NextGen athletes on the condition that Own The Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee collectively match those funds.

"The support to NextGen is hugely beneficial obviously in all sports," Speed Skating Canada chief executive officer Susan Auch said.

"That does make a big difference to our sport. The fact our NextGen team and next generation of women in short track speed skating are successful here is they get to have access to a world-class level of programming."

The next World Cup races are Friday to Sunday in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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