Four medals for Canadian speed skaters

Marie-Eve Drolet celebrates her silver medal at the Calgary Oval Sunday. Reuters photo.

Marie-Eve Drolet celebrates her silver medal at the Calgary Oval Sunday. Reuters photo.

DANIEL AUSTIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:49 PM ET

Canadian speed skaters may not have brought home any gold medals at this weekend's short track World Cup at the Olympic Oval, but a four-medal performance Sunday gave the team plenty of encouragement for the season ahead.

Skating on ice that's commonly referred to as "the fastest in the world," Canadians finished the opening World Cup event of the 2012-13 season with four silver and two bronze medals.

In the women's 1,000-metre final, Marie-Eve Drolet fell just short of a gold in a frantic five-woman race eventually won by South Korean Shim Suk-hee that saw multiple lead-changes and two skaters slide into the safety mats surrounding the rink.

In anticipation of the chaos having five skaters on the course would cause, Drolet focused on staying out front right from the start.

"I tried to take every opportunity I had to go back into the lead, because in the 1,000-metre it's not that long and it's really fast, so you don't want to be in the back," the Chicoutimi, Que. native said.

"You have to be strong and aware of what's happening around you, because there's arms everywhere."

Drolet finished the final with a silver medal, but her last race of the competition ended in disappointment after she fell midway through the women's 3,000m relay.

Racing without Marianne St-Gelais, who sat out after crashing and coming down with concussion-like symptoms, the women's team was battling for first place early in the race when Drolet caught an edge and fell to the ice.

The team finished, but was never in contention in a race won by the Koreans in a time of 4:07.938.

"I don't really know what happened," Drolet said. "But it's not fun when you fall and lose the relay for your team."

On the men's side, Charles Hamelin and Michael Gilday came away with two medals apiece Sunday.

Hamelin finished second in the 500m final, a race that saw American J.R. Celski become the first person to finish the distance in less than 40 seconds, with a time of 39.937 seconds.

But the former Olympic gold medalist, whose time of 40.420 seconds would have set a world record before this weekend's races, was rightfully left questioning whether it might have been him.

"I was just waiting for an opportunity to go from second to first and I knew it was going to come with how the race was coming," Hamelin said.

"But (Russian skater Vladimir Grigorev) slipped and almost fell and went right into my path. I lost all my speed and it maybe cost me the battle for first place."

Yellowknife native Michael Gilday marked his return to the oval, where he trained for six years, by taking home a silver medal in the 1,000m and a bronze as part of the men's relay team in the 5,000m.

In the 1,000m, Gilday jumped to an early lead and skated for most of the race in second place behind eventual winner Victor An, of Russia. Throughout the race, Gilday held off Korean teammates Yoon-Gy Kwak and Jinkyu Noh, both of whom tried aggressively to pass him in the closing laps.

"A lot of people say when you see a Korean in a race you're seeing a world champion, and the biggest thing is just to not be intimidated," Gilday said. "My strategy was to go out in front and see what I could do."

Like Drolet, Gilday's excitement was tempered somewhat by a fall in the relay. But despite crossing the line in fourth, the Canadian team of Gilday, Hamelin, Francois Hamelin and Jean Olivier were awarded a bronze medal when the Chinese team was penalized.

Daniel.austin@sunmedia.ca

@SUNDannyAustin


Videos

Photos