3 speed skating veterans lead inexperienced Canadian Olympic short track team

Seven of 10 speed skaters announced Tuesday to Canada's short track team will make their Olympic debut next month in Beijing, with medallists Kim Boutin, Pascal Dion and Charles Hamelin bringing experience to the squad.

Boutin, Dion, Hamelin back for Beijing and 7 others set to make Winter Games debut

Kim Boutin, a three-time medallist in short track at the 2018 Olympics, is among three veteran speed skaters returning to the Canadian team for the Winter Games in Beijing in February. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images/File)

Kim Boutin, Pascal Dion and Charles Hamelin bring experience to Canada's 10-member Olympic short track team announced Tuesday.

Seven other speed skaters, led by teenage phenom Florence Brunelle, will make their Winter Games debut next month in Beijing.

The 18-year-old from Trois-Rivières, Que., is  the youngest Canadian short track athlete to participate on the Olympic stage.

"I am super happy and grateful to have the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympic Games in Beijing," the two-time Youth Olympic Games medallist said in a Speed Skating Canada news release.

"And it's very special to be among the youngest Canadians, and the youngest ever in my sport, to compete at this level."

Boutin won an Olympic silver medal and two bronze four years ago in Pyeonchang, South Korea, where the 27-year-old was also Canada's flag-bearer at the closing ceremony.

"I'm returning to the Games, but this time my eyes and heart will be wide open and I'm going to take in every single moment," said the native of Sherbrooke, Que., who took time away from skating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on her mental health. Now, she is tasked with leading a young women's team.

5-time Olympic medallist

For Hamelin, a five-time Olympic medallist, Beijing will be the 37-year-old's fifth and final Winter Games.

"I am very proud of where this team is after four challenging years. Every skater has worked very hard to get to this point and I know they will be ready to take on this next challenge, said Hamelin, tied with fellow short track athletes Marc Gagnon, François-Louis Tremblay and figure skater Scott Moir as Canada's most decorated male Winter Olympians.

Dion, who won 2018 Olympic bronze in the men's 5,000 metres, was Canada's most successful skater during the recent Olympic qualifying period with four individual medals. The 27-year-old from Montreal also ranked first in the 1,000 on the World Cup circuit.

The men's team will also feature perennial World Cup medal contender Steven Dubois along with Jordan Pierre-Gilles and Maxime Laoun, who have made great strides in both individual distances and as members of the 5,000 relay squad since their arrival on the World Cup scene in the 2019-20 season.

Courtney Sarault, Alyson Charles and Danaé Blais round out the women's team. Charles and Blais have been members of the 3,000m relay team since the start of the Olympic quadrennial.

Head coach Sebastien Cros said he's excited about the group.

"We have a good mix of experience and youth, and we showed great potential in the first part of the season thanks to a bold and proactive strategy in our races," he said. "The objective will be to approach the Olympic events with the same energy in order to replicate this level of performance."

Canada's short track team ended the Olympic qualification campaign — the first full season of the sport in three years — with 17 medal podium finishes and secured the maximum 10 athlete quota spots.

The country has won 33 Olympic medals — nine gold, 12 silver and 12 bronze — in short track since the sport was officially added to the Olympic program in 1992 at Albertville, France.

In Beijing, Canada will enter teams in the men's 5,000, women's 3,000 and mixed 2,000 relays, while the maximum three skaters will line up in each of the individual distances (500, 1,000, 1,500), except for the men's 1,000 in which only two spots were earned.

Canada's Olympic short track team

Men

  • Pascal Dion, Montreal
  • Steven Dubois, Terrebonne, Que.
  • Charles Hamelin, Sainte-Julie, Que.
  • Maxime Laoun, Montreal
  • Jordan Pierre-Gilles, Sherbrooke, Que.
  • Alternate: William Dandjinou, Montreal

Women

  • Danaé Blais, Châteauguay, Que.
  • Kim Boutin, Sherbrooke, Que.
  • Florence Brunelle, Trois-Rivières, Que.
  • Alyson Charles, Montreal
  • Courtney Sarault, Moncton, N.B.
  • Alternate: Camille de Serres-Rainville, Montreal

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