Speed demons

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET

They're the best speed skaters in the country not going to the Olympics.

This weekend, 32 men and 32 women are vying for four spots on the Canadian short-track speed skating national team.

The Canadian short-track national team trials taking place at Clareview Arena is one of two events to determine next year's team.

The other event takes place in March.

"There are basically two spots up for grabs for the national team and another four for the national development team," said meet co-ordinator Kathy Gregg. "They usually do three trials throughout the year, but because of the Olympics trials in September, they only have two this year."

TOP SKATERS IN COUNTRY

With the exception of the six men and six women on the Olympic team, the trials feature the top skaters in the country.

A majority of skaters taking part in the event are from Quebec, while Alberta and B.C. have a strong contingent as well.

"All these skaters qualified to be here," said Gregg. "They are the best short-track speed skaters in Canada."

The event got underway on Friday with the 1,500-metre races.

Ivanie Blondin of Ontario won the women's event, while Olivier Jean of Quebec won the men's event.

500-METRE EVENT

Yesterday featured the 500-metre events.

Annik Plamondon of Quebec won the girls event, while Jean won the men's event.

Jessica Gregg of Edmonton finished fifth in the women's event. Gregg, 17, daughter of former Edmonton Oiler Dr. Randy Gregg, broke a junior world record at a meet last week in Calgary.

"My goal is to one day make the Olympic team," she said. "I'm hoping to do real well here at the trials."

Today the 1,000-metre and 3,000-metre distances are featured.

This weekend's results will be combined with the results in March to determine the national team.

"It's all based on placing," Gregg said. "Time in short track doesn't mean a whole lot, except maybe in the 500, where they are going as fast as they can.

"You can win a heat, but be slower than someone who finished second in another heat, and still advance."


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