Canadian short track speed skating team set up for success in post-Hamelin era

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When Jordan Pierre-Gilles stepped up to the beginning line for Canada in the boys’s 5,000-metre relay on the Beijing Olympics in February, the moment — even past skating for his first Olympic medal at his first Olympic Games — was not misplaced on him.

The final short track speed skating occasion of the Olympics in February was additionally the ultimate Olympic competitors for Canadian legend Charles Hamelin, who was gunning for a fourth profession gold medal.

The then-37-year-old Hamelin was aided in his quest by a team of skaters all firmly in the prime of their careers: Pascal Dion, 27, Steven Dubois, 24, and the 23-year-old Pierre-Gilles, who was skating in the ultimate in place of 25-year-old Maxime Laoun.

“We had been assured, and I believe we had been really actually hungry as a result of most of us to that time had no medals in the Games,” Pierre-Gilles instructed CBC Sports just lately. “It was extra confidence than strain.”

Dubois was the one exception, ending with a bronze in the boys’s 1,500m and a silver in the boys’s 500m earlier in the competitors. On the ladies’s aspect, Kim Boutin, 27, introduced in a bronze medal of her personal in the 500m.

Canada’s short track season will get underway on Friday with the Canadian Short Track Championships in Quebec City, earlier than the primary worldwide competitors of the yr on Oct. 28-30 in Montreal with the primary of six World Cup occasions. That occasion will probably be will probably be streamed stay on CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem and the free CBC Sports app.

Hamelin had treasured few probabilities left in his illustrious 20-year profession on the nationwide circuit.

In his fifth Olympic Games, Hamelin was susceptible to coming up empty-handed for his first time. He gained silver in Torino 2006, two golds in Vancouver 2010, gold in Sochi 2014, and a bronze in the boys’s 5,000m in PyeongChang 2018.

The third-place end in 2018 was one which introduced combined feelings from Hamelin and Dion.

“I believe in 2018 we had been a bit upset, however I really feel like we had been simply unlucky,” Dion mentioned. “Sam [Girard] received hit in the final two laps and I believe it is due to that that we misplaced the gold.

“But all the blokes had been pleased in regards to the efficiency on the ice, we had been only a bit unhappy in regards to the consequence. We knew we labored properly as a team.”

A correct send-off

There can be no miscues from the Canadian team in 2022.

After holding third place for the primary half of the race, Pierre-Gilles made the primary transfer, taking the within track to move the Russian Olympic Committee team, instantly following an Hamelin push simply earlier than the four-minute mark of the race.

WATCH | Hamelin’s ultimate golden moment:

Hamelin wins relay gold, ties Canadian file with sixth Olympic medal

Charles Hamelin closed his Olympic profession on an emotional excessive, whereas the gold medal provides teammate Steven Dubois one among each color at Beijing 2022.

Shortly after, Dubois and Dion teamed up to make the most of a sloppy change by the South Korean team, leaping into first place. It wasn’t till 12 laps to go that the methodical tempo quickened, with Dion heading off a move try and promptly kicking it into excessive gear to show the extra methodical tempo right into a dash to the end.

“It’s a sense and it’s a must to have the team spirit and communication to know what the opposite guys of the team are doing versus what you are doing,” mentioned Dion on quickening the tempo. “You do not discuss on the ice, however it’s a must to watch each skater and see what they’re making an attempt to do.

“With three exchanges to go, we nonetheless wished to be sluggish, as a result of we knew that the Koreans and different groups would struggle on the finish. So we had been making an attempt to be virtually as sluggish as doable. But to remain in entrance with two exchanges to go, we simply went all out and all the opposite guys adopted after I picked up the tempo.”

With that teamwork on the forefront, Hamelin was golden as soon as once more, alongside a gaggle of younger skaters that look to uphold that normal going ahead.

Passing the torch

With Hamelin retiring, the title of ‘elder statesman’ for the Canadian short track team passes to Dion, now 28 and coming off the strongest season of his profession. He’s ranked second in the world behind Chinese skater Ren Ziwei, who gained the gold medal in the boys’s 1,000m in Beijing.

Dion rode the wave of that efficiency by capping off his 2021-22 season with a wonderful exhibiting in Montreal on the ISU World Short Track Championships in April, incomes a silver medal in the 1,500m, in addition to a bronze in the boys’s 5,000m, which helped give Hamelin his thirty eighth world championship medal in what was the ultimate race of his profession.

The Montreal native delivered for Canada all season, incomes prime honours on the World Cup circuit in the boys’s 1,000m with two silvers and two bronze in 5 races.

WATCH | Dion completes marvelous season:

Pascal Dion wins silver in 1,500m, says he knew what he was able to

Montreal’s Pascal Dion completed second in the boys’s 1,500m ultimate on the short track worlds in entrance of the house crowd.

Along with skaters similar to Dubois, Laoun and Pierre-Gilles — who set private finest occasions in the five hundred and 1,000m disciplines in Beijing, in addition to racking up 4 medals in the 5,000m in the 2021-22 season — it is a core group of males’s skaters that determine to tackle much more of a task with the younger team.

“In the group, I’ve a unique place for positive,” mentioned Pierre-Gilles of his function because the veteran chief. “I’ve extra expertise. I’ve lived via some issues, and I’ve gained Olympic gold. 

“But for me — and for my targets and my aspirations — nothing has modified. It’s extra for the opposite youthful skaters that weren’t there when [Hamelin] was there final yr, my standing and picture is completely different for them. But for me, it does not change a lot.”

WATCH | Pierre-Gilles relives gold:

Jordan Pierre-Gilles relives profitable his 1st Olympic medal

Canadian short track speed skater, Jordan Pierre-Gilles, narrates his expertise on the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. Pierre-GIlles gained his first-ever medal in the boys’s 5000m relay.

Twenty-six-year-old Alphonse Ouimette rounds out the boys’s team alongside a trio of 21-year-olds in Nicolas Perreault, Jérome Courtemanche and William Dandjinou.

A pure successor to Hamelin on the boys’s relay groups can be Sherbrooke, Que.’s Dandjinou, who was named as an alternate for Canada in Beijing. 

“It was a particular yr final yr with the Olympics, all of the skaters that we now have cannot [participate] in each occasion,” mentioned Dion. “This yr, [Dandjinou] will have the ability to skate extra. He’s been excellent in coaching and we’ll see what he can do.”

Future begins now for girls’s skaters

Canada’s girls’s team, in the meantime, has its personal medal threats, led by 22-year-old Courtney Sarault.

Since dominating the juniors circuit, Sarault has gained 5 particular person distance medals on the world championships and 12 on the World Cup circuit, although she’s not glad with that success.

“To be extra constant would in all probability be my objective for this season,” Sarault mentioned.

Sarault was in a position to compete in just one worldwide occasion in 2021 due to COVID restrictions, however she made essentially the most of it. She completed second twice (1,500m, 3,000m) and third as soon as (1,000m) for second general on the competitors between top-ranked skater Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands, and legendary Italian skater Arianna Fontana, who has 11 Olympic medals to her identify, most just lately a gold in the 500m and silver in the 1,500m in Beijing.

WATCH | Sarault provides third medal at world championships:

third medal for Canada’s Sarault at world championships

Courtney Sarault of Moncton, N.B. added to her assortment a silver medal in the 3000 metre superfinal Sunday on the short track speed skating world championships in Dordrecht, Netherlands.

Sarault has additionally been a significant factor in each the ladies’s and combined gender relays, incomes an extra 12 medals the world over championship and World Cup circuits the previous 5 years. Two of these had been silver medals that got here skating alongside Hamelin in the combined 2,000m relay.

“When I received right into a combined relay and was skating with Sam [Girard] and Charles [Hamelin], I used to be like ‘okay, that is fairly cool’,” mentioned Sarault, who left her hometown of Moncton, N.B. to affix the Canadian nationwide team in Montreal in 2018. “And additionally Kim [Boutin]… We had extra of a bond, and she or he’s nonetheless somebody I look up to as a result of she’s extra skilled together with her years in the game.”

Much like Dion, Boutin is a well-decorated skater with 4 Olympic medals and 12 world championship medals. At 27, she enters the 2022-23 season as the oldest member of the team. 

And then there’s 18-year-old Florence Brunelle, who has three World Cup relay medals to her identify and took part in her first Olympic Games in Beijing, serving to Canada place fourth in the ladies’s 3,000m relay, and sixth in the combined 2,000m.

The Trois-Rivières, Que., native additionally confirmed promise in particular person competitors, putting 14th in her debut on the 2021 world championships in the Netherlands, earned via top-10 finishes in each the 500m and 1,500m occasions.

WATCH | Canadian girls’s relay team put forth glorious efficiency in Montreal:

Canadian relay team had ‘the race of our lives’

Kim Boutin, Florence Brunelle, Alyson Charles and Courtney Sarault discuss their bronze medal on the short track world championships.

While youth can usually be a hindrance to taking up extra of a management function, expertise can go a great distance.

“I noticed a couple of years in the past that I actually had an affect on individuals,” mentioned Sarault, who joined the senior team on the identical age as Brunelle. “I noticed that lots of people had belief in me and I had to verify everybody was okay, contemplating they considered me as a pacesetter.

“Speed skating you may form of get egocentric generally and give attention to your self, however this yr serving to different individuals helps myself. Making others really feel comfy and pleased, it helps you much more than you’d assume.”

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