A Silver Medal on her Birthday

On five hundred metres of ice, a young Canadian skater held off the hard-charging Arianna Fontana of Italy to win a silver medal on the short track Wednesday night.

As a 19-year-old, here is what Marianne St-Gelais accomplished in her short track speed skating career: a world junior record in 500 metres, the 2009 world junior title in 500 metres, nine World Cup medals over two seasons, and the moniker “2009 Rising Star” by Speed Skating Canada

As a 20-year-old, here is what she accomplished: an Olympic silver medal in the 500 metres.

“It’s a wonderful birthday present,” said St-Gelais, who turned 20 Wednesday. “It’s touched me very much. I’m just so happy.”

The native of St-Felicien, Quebec won Canada’s first medal in short track speed skating, and the first of her career. St-Gelais could last night blow the candles out on a day to remember.

The race was won by Chinese star Meng Wang, who has not trailed in a race all season. Canadian Jessica Gregg finished fourth in the final race, while teammate Kalyna Roberge was unable to break into the four-skater final.

Going into the race, Wang was ranked world No. 1, Roberge No. 2, St-Gelais No. 4 and Gregg No. 5. St-Gelais’ silver medal is no doubt an inspiration to other members of Canada’s strong short track team, perhaps most significantly for her boyfriend Charles Hamelin, who is currently the 500-metre world champion.

Just before the ladies’ captivating race, Canada’s 5,000-metre men’s relay team took to the ice in a thrilling event. They advanced to the final, along with China. That race will not be one to miss, and will also feature the U.S., France and Korea. Also at the Pacific Coliseum, brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin advanced to the quarter-finals in the 1,000 metres. Charles actually held the Olympic record for a brief time, but Korea’s Sung Si-Bak beat it a few heats later.

What an impressive result for St-Gelais, who had until now not felt the intensity of an Olympic Games, or even a World Championship. Now that is rising to the occasion.