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Great Team Canada Olympic moments in short track speed skating

Did you know that short track speed skating officially became an Olympic sport in 1992?

That was 68 years after speed skating made its Olympic debut at Chamonix 1924 with long track events for men.

Short track was on display at Calgary 1988 as a demonstration sport before making its official Olympic debut at Albertville 1992 with the women’s 500m and 3000m relay and the men’s 1000m and 5000m relay. At Lillehammer 1994, the men’s 500m and women’s 1000m were added but it wasn’t until Salt Lake City 2002 that the 1500m was also an event for both genders.

Read on and relive Team Canada’s Olympic highlights in short track speed skating through the years:

The first Olympic gold medal

It didn’t take long for Canada to win its first Olympic gold medal in short track. Leading up to Albertville 1992, Canada dominated the women’s 3000m relay, winning the last six world titles. Their closest challengers were expected to be China, but a crash in the semifinals took them out of contention.

Canada's Annie Perrault (left) and Angela Cutrone (right) compete in the short track speed skating at the 1992 Albertville Olympic Winter Games.
Canada’s Annie Perrault (left) and Angela Cutrone (right) compete in the short track speed skating at the 1992 Albertville Olympic Winter Games. (PC Photo / COA)

Early in the final, a Japanese skater fell and then the Canadian quartet of Angela Cutrone, Sylvie Daigle, Nathalie Lambert, and Annie Perreault held off the United States in a tactical race to become Canada’s first Olympic champions in short track speed skating. At the same Games, Canada won two other medals: silver in the 1000m for Frédéric Blackburn and silver in the men’s 5000m relay (Blackburn, Laurent Daignault, Michel Daignault, Sylvain Gagnon and Mark Lackie).

Two Canadians on the podium

At Nagano 1998, Marc Gagnon was among the favourites to win the men’s 500m. However, things took a turn for the worst when he fell in the final and finished fourth.

At Salt Lake City 2002, Gagnon was looking for redemption and was joined in the final by fellow Canadian Jonathan Guilmette.

Canadian short track speed skaters Marc Gagnon (315) and Jonathan Guilmette (316) follow each other in American Rusty Smith’s draw lane during the 500-meter final on Saturday February 23, 2002 at the Olympic Games winter of Salt Lake City. The Canadian Gagnon took the gold, Guilmette the silver and Smith the bronze. (PHOTO PC / AOC / André Forget)

At the start of the 4.5-lap race, Gagnon was second behind American Rusty Smith while Guilmette was fourth. On the last lap, Gagnon decided to pass at the perfect moment, going inside to take first position. Guilmette followed his teammate to the American’s surprise, as the Canadians won gold and silver. Just an hour later, both men were back on the ice, helping Canada to another gold in the 5000m relay.

READ: Where are they now? Marc Gagnon

Men’s relay team gets their revenge

At Turin 2006, the Canadian men’s relay team made up of Mathieu Turcotte, Eric Bédard, François-Louis Tremblay, Jonathan Guilmette, and Charles Hamelin won the semifinal to advance to the gold medal race. At the start of the final, the Canadian skaters took the lead over the Americans, but at halfway mark, the South Koreans took a lead that they kept for the rest of the race, breaking the Olympic record in the process. The Canadians finished second, a mere 0.04 seconds behind the winners.

Mathieu Turcotte, Éric Bédard, François-Louis Tremblay, Jonathan Guilmette and Charles Hamelin, left to right, show off their medals after winning silver in the men’s 5,000-meter relay at the Palavela rink at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics on February 25, 2006 in Turin, Italy. (PHOTO PR / Andrew Vaughan)

Four years later, Hamelin and Tremblay were on the Vancouver 2010 team alongside Guillaume Bastille, Olivier Jean, and Francois Hamelin. After finishing second in their semifinal, the skaters had to give their all to be Olympic champions. In the middle of the final, Jean took the lead to overtake China and widened Canada’s lead for Charles Hamelin. Despite a near crash by Hamelin late in the race, Canada won gold ahead of South Korea and the United States.

Operation Cobra, conceived by Jean, is what allowed Team Canada to be so successful at Vancouver 2010. The strategy, developed two years before the Games, was to use the strengths of each skater to win the race, though it would only be possible if Canada was ahead in the last 20 laps. Tremblay played a key role as his job was to block out the opposing skaters, causing confusion for the other teams in the process. With a gold medal for Canada, we can say that it was mission accomplished!

Canada’s Olivier Jean, Charles Hamelin, François Hamelin, Guillaume Bastille and François-Louis Tremblay, left to right, bite their gold medal in the men’s 5,000-meter relay in the short track speed skating competition on Friday February 26, 2010 at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Games in Vancouver. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson)

At the same Games, the women’s team of Jessica Gregg, Kalyna Roberge, Marianne St-Gelais, and Tania Vicent also took second place on the podium in their relay.

Canada’s most decorated short track speed skaters

In the history of short track speed skating at the Olympics, three Canadian skaters stand at the top with five medals each.

Marc Gagnon

Marc Gagnon won his first Olympic medal at Lillehammer 1994. He took bronze in the 1000m after winning the B final and a series of disqualifications in the A final. His individual races at Nagano 1998 were more difficult, but he still earned a gold medal in the men’s relay. Salt Lake City 2002 was a very prolific Olympic Games for the Canadian skater as he won gold in the 500m and men’s relay and bronze in the 1500m.

Canadian short track gold medalist Marc Gagnon stretches out his arms after receiving gold in the 500-meter final on Saturday February 23, 2002 at the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He also won the gold aurelais 5000 meters. (PHOTO PC / AOC / André Forget)

François-Louis Tremblay

In his first Olympic Games at Salt Lake City 2002, François-Louis Tremblay was part of the Canadian men’s relay team that won gold. At Turin 2006, he claimed his first individual Olympic medal with silver in the 500m, then ended his second Games with another silver in the men’s relay. In his third and final Olympic Games in Vancouver, Tremblay finished in style with two more medals: bronze in the 500m and gold in the men’s relay.

Canada’s François-Louis Tremblay leads the Latvian Haralds Silovs, center, and Belgian Pieter Gysel in the quarter-finals of the men’s 500 meters in the short track speed skating competition on Friday February 26, 2010 at the Olympic Winter Games 2010 in Vancouver. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson)

Charles Hamelin

Charles Hamelin is Canada’s most recent short track skater to win five Olympic medals. He won three medals in the men’s relay: silver at Turin 2006, gold at Vancouver 2010, and bronze at PyeongChang 2018 (with Charle Cournoyer, Pascal Dion, and Samuel Girard). He also has two individual gold medals to his name: the 500m in 2010 and the 1500m at Sochi 2014.

Canada’s Charles Hamelin celebrates his gold medal in the men’s 1,500-meter short track speed skating final at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games on Monday February 10, 2014 in Sochi. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson)