Arno Hoogveld, DayDream Images

Six Medals at World Cup opener

Canada opened up the 2012-2013 Speed Skating season by winning a total of six medals at this weekend’s Samsung ISU World Cup in Calgary, Alberta.

The first two podium finishes came on Saturday after Olivier Jean and Charles Hamelin captured the silver medal in the 1,000m and the bronze medal in 1,500m respectively.

Jean of Lachenaie, Que., finished second in a time of 1:24.813 to finish just behind eventual winner Vladimir Grigorev of Russia who finished in 1:24.670. Hamelin finished his race in a time of 2:14.871.

“It (silver medal) feels good. It’s the start of the season,” said Jean in winning his 17th career World Cup medal. “Of course I wanted gold to start the season on top of the podium. I did some great racing, but it wasn’t perfect. I have some homework to do for the 1,000-metre race next weekend in Montreal.”

Canada added another four medals on Sunday including three silver medals. Hamelin competed once more in the 500m and won a silver medal in a time of 40.420s to capture his 51st World Cup medal.

Hamelin placed just behind eventual winter J.R. Celski of the United States who broke the world record with a time of 39.937s to win gold.

“The race was really fast,” said Hamelin. “I had no place to go. I was waiting for opportunities to take the lead with one or two passes. I lost a lot speed when the Russian skater lost his balance in front of me. That really cost me to challenge for the gold medal.”

Canada finished in second place in the women’s and men’s 1,000m finals courtesy of Marie-Ève Drolet of Laterrière, Que., and Michael Gilday of Yellowknife .

In the men’s1,000-metre final, Gilday kept it close throughout the race but Russian Victor An took a late lead to win the gold medal in one minute and 24.519 seconds. Gilday came in second just 0.94 seconds behind at 1:24.613.

“I trained in Calgary at the Oval for six years, it’s like a second home for me. I had friends and family supporting me,” said Gilday. “I had a tough race. A former five-time world champion and last year’s champion in my race – I beat two out of three of them, so I’ve got one more to go.”

Drolet kept pace with Korean Suk Hee Shim throughout the women’s 1,000-metre final, but Shim won in a time of one minute and 29.247 seconds – 0.202 seconds ahead of the Canadian.

“I tried to take every opportunity I had to take the lead, because a 1,000-metre race is not that long and it’s pretty fast so you don’t want to be too much in the back,” said Drolet. “Near the end I was third and then the second girl fell. I then I just tried to catch up to the Korean.”

The competition wrapped up with a bronze medal for the men’s relay team. The team consisting of Hamelin, his brother François, Gilday and Jean finished third behind Korea and Russia respectively.

Canadian Bobsleigh round-up:
2010 Olympic gold medallist Kaillie Humphries teamed up with rookie brakewoman Chelsea Valois to win the women’s Canadian Bobsleigh Championship with a time of 1:56.53 in Calgary. Meanwhile, Chris Spring and Adam Rosenke posted a winning time of 1:53.94 to capture the men’s title. Sarah Reid also captured her first national skeleton title with a time of 59.20 and 59.92. Eric Neilson won his second consecutive national title in the men’s race with times of 57.99 and 58.20.

Photo: Arno Hoogveld, DayDream Images