Skater on the mark

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

In Clara Hughes, Justine L'Heureux couldn't pick a better speed skater to emulate.

After all, Hughes, who lives in Glen Sutton, Que., is the only Canadian to bring home medals from both the Summer and Winter Games.

While L'Heureux is a ways off from reaching those lofty heights, she's surely made a bit of a name for herself this weekend at the Olympic Oval in the Canada Post Cup No. 3.

The Canadian junior champ won gold in the 3,000 metres, silver in the 1,500 and 1,000, and was fifth in the 500 -- all with personal best times.

And after returning late last month from her first junior world championships in Finland, the outgoing skater said she was surprised at the marks she posted.

"I thought we'd be tired after the world championships but the times were pretty fast for me, so I'm really, really happy," said L'Heureux, who turned 16 on Wednesday and is in her first season on the junior national team.

"I wasn't expecting to take 10 seconds off my personal best in the 3,000 but the ice is very fast here and it's only the second time I've raced here."

At junior worlds, in her first appearance, L'Heureux finished as the top Canadian, a respectable 16th overall.

Despite her youth, L'Heureux matched strides with national team skaters like Kerry Simpson and Danielle Wotherspoon and it's just a matter of time until she's making international headlines.

Her coach, Douglas Duncan, said Canadians should keep an eye on the teenager.

"I think she's somebody to watch for down the road but there's still a lot of work to do," Duncan said, one of Canada's junior team coaches.

"It's really great to have a good first year but you always want to get better and set the bar high.

"She's very positive and very energetic and she has a lot of fun coming to the rink."

When she's finished high school in two years, L'Heureux plans on moving to Quebec City and training with the national team.

She said she'd rather hone her skills as an all-rounder as opposed to sprinting because she enjoys skating the longer distances -- just like Clara Hughes.

Simpson won yesterday's 1,000 in one minute 17.08 seconds.


Videos

Photos