Hamelin, St-Gelais headline short track World Cup teams
5 Canadians named to compete in Montreal, Toronto
Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais will lead the short track team in the World Cup season, Speed Skating Canada announced Wednesday.
The two events, which kick off the short track speed skating season, take place in Montreal (Oct.30-Nov. 1) and Toronto (Nov. 6-8).
The team features several Olympic medallists, including Hamelin (Levis, Que.), St-Gelais (Saint-Félicien, Que.) and Valérie Maltais (La Baie, Que.). Kim Boutin, of Sherbrooke, Que., and Samuel Girard, of Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., were also compete in Montreal and Toronto.
The five athletes listed above automatically qualified for a spot on the Canadian team by finishing among the three highest ranked skaters in overall standings at the Fall World Cup Selections held last weekend in Montreal, based on total points earned in their best two distances.
Kasandra Bradette (Saint-Félicien, Que.), Audrey Phaneuf (Boucherville, Que.) and Jamie MacDonald (Fort St. James, B.C.) round out the women's team.
Phaneuf, 19, finished fourth overall at the 2015 Fall World Cup selections while MacDonald, 20, placed sixth. The latter will be making her World Cup debut.
The men's team will also be comprised of Francois Hamelin (Sainte-Julie, Que.), Charle Cournoyer (Boucherville), Patrick Duffy (Oakville, Ont.) and Sasha Alexander Fathoullin (Calgary).
Fathoullin, 20, will also be making his World Cup debut. He was crowned Canadian junior champion last season after be broke the national junior mark in the 500 metres in 2014.
The Toronto stop will allow Duffy to compete in front of family and friends.
"With a month to go," he said in a statement released by Speed Skating Canada, "my general feeling is excitement. There will be family and longtime friends to support me as well as the Canadian team.
"At the same time, when the moment comes, it'll be important not to be overwhelmed during the races, but rather try to focus and channel that pressure into positive energy."
St-Gelais' clean sweep
At the Fall World Cup Selections, St-Gelais showed she was in top form by delivering a clean sweep of all six individual women's events.
"Following a great summer of training which translated to the performances I had over the weekend, I can't wait to get back to international competition and, especially, to competing in front of our fans in Montreal and Toronto," said the three-time silver Olympic medal;ist. "We are all looking forward to showing how exciting our sport is, and we hope that people will come out to support us to the max and fill up the stands in both rinks."
St-Gelais will be looking to pick up where she finished last season, having collected 12 medals in six World Cup events.
Hamelin still the man to beat
On the men's side, Charles Hamelin, the three-time Olympic gold medallist will aim to impress his Canadian fans in Montreal and in Toronto. He qualified for a spot on the Canadian team after coming up with three first place, and two second place finishes at the Fall World Cup Selections.
"I'm already looking to the 2018 Olympic Games and that is why, during last weekend's trials, I tried new strategies in order to keep improving," said Hamelin.
"The next level of preparation toward Pyeongchang will now go through international competition. I can't wait to apply the new things I've incorporated in my skating, starting with the World Cups in Montreal and in Toronto, and I hope that will translate into podium performances in front of our Canadian fans."
Jean goes long
Jean, meanwhile, is trying his luck at long track speed skating.
He left Wednesday for Calgary to begin a training program ahead of the Canadian long-track team selection meet Oct. 22-25 at Calgary's Olympic Oval.
"I've always wanted to have a real try at long-track and, at 31 years old, after finishing my degree and because we are still two years away from the 2018 Olympic Games, I believe this is the right time to go through a thorough evaluation, especially for the mass start event, which will be included for the first time in the Olympic program at the next Games," he said in a statement.
Jean took part in a selection meet for the short-track team last weekend in Montreal. He qualified for the squad that will take part in the first four World Cup meets of the season, but gave up his spot to pursue his long-track adventure.
"Even if I'm very satisfied with my weekend's performances, and even a little bit surprised considering I wasn't in top shape after going through two months of rehabilitation, I decided to follow the plan that my coaches and I agreed to well before the trials," said Jean, who was injured in a cycling accident during the summer.
He added he is not giving up short-track for good. The points he earned at the selection meet will count toward quaifying for the world championship team at the end of this season.
Overland named honorary president
Olympic short-track medallist Amanda Overland, who hails from Cambridge, Ont., will be the honorary president for the Toronto event.
She won a silver medal in the relay event at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy.
"Coming from a family of three Olympic speed skaters [brother Kevin Overland Crockett and sister Cindy Overland] whose father [Ernie] has coached for thirty-four-plus years in the sport, I take a tremendous amount of pride in being asked to be the honorary president.
"As the athletes begin the second year of their four-year buildup to the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeonghchang, South Korea, we can expect excellent performances from our Canadian athletes."