Re-charged short track team to begin World Cup season
Experience doesn’t matter so much for members of the Canadian short track team. The goal for everyone is to win.
Other teams pursue the same idea, sure, but the resolve with short track is palatable and the results are unmistakable. The team won a total of 15 medals in four World Cup events last season.
The 2014-15 season begins this weekend in Salt Lake City, USA with the first of six World Cup competitions (the season is longer in non-Olympic years). As Sochi recedes in 2014’s rearview mirror, some familiar veterans have carried on.
Ever-grinning Charles Hamelin, with his four Olympic medals is the default veteran at 30-years-old. Marianne St-Gelais (they are now engaged) with three medals of her own may be a leader based on this fact, although she thinks it a bit premature. “I realize that my role is different now, at the same time I feel like 24 is pretty young to be a mentor,” she said at a media event last week in Montreal.
The Olympic-proven Valérie Maltais, 24, spent the summer training on roller skates to be ready. Sochi bronze medallist Charle Cournoyer, 23, will miss the first two World Cup stops with a fractured foot but plans on joining the team in mid-December.
In the year after an Olympic Games the hype (warranted or not) is usually focused on younger athletes. Yet for the most part, the experienced few are barely in their mid-20s. As for new blood, the team has that too.
At 19, Sherbrooke’s Kim Boutin is the youngest woman on the World Cup squad. The rookie earned assignment to the first four World Cups supported by a decisive win over her “role models” St-Gelais and Maltais in a 1000m final at the fall selection meet. “I hope to be able to surpass them one day, but it’s not my main goal, beating other countries is,” says Boutin in bold fashion. The new kid also has a relay silver medal from 2014 World Juniors.
St-Gelais understands Boutin’s ability and can probably relate; she also experienced her first international success in her late-teens. They train together at Montreal’s Maurice Richard Arena. “I see her everyday during training and honestly, she has the chops of a champion,” comments St-Gelais.
“It’s a name you’ll remember four years from now,” Marianne St-Gelais on 19-year-old Kim Boutin.
Men’s rookie Samuel Girard, who turned 18 in June, went to fall World Cup selections in Calgary and shone brightly. He was second only to Charles Hamelin in two finals each of the 500m and 1500m. “I won’t be overwhelmed if I find myself at the starting line next to Viktor Ahn or Charles Hamelin. It’s one of my strengths. I can build a sort-of barrier so that it doesn’t affect me,” states Girard, a 2014 World Junior silver medallist in the 500m. Like St-Gelais to Boutin, the elder Hamelin is optimistic about Girard. “I see him as the future Charles Hamelin. Samuel has the potential to become an excellent skater,” he says.
After Salt Lake City the team will travel back to Canada for stop number two in Montreal, November 14-16. Women’s head coach Frédéric Blackburn believes training has progressed well leading into the opening competitions. “The young skaters see an opportunity to compete internationally. The motivation is there. For the veterans it can be more difficult in a post-Olympic year. I think the addition of rookies on the team has had a positive impact on the group,” he says.