Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Date posted: 09/19/2010
Victories in today’s 500m and 1000m events at the short track selections at the Calgary Olympic Oval helped Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) and Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC) secure their spots on Canada’s team for the Fall World Cups. Thanks to solid performances through the weekend, they, along with Valérie Maltais (La Baie, QC), Marie-Ève Drolet (Latterière, QC) and Michael Gilday (Yellowknife, NT) will represent Canada for the Montréal and Québec World Cups on October 22-24 and 29-31, as well as for the two Asian stops of the circuit, scheduled for early December.
The day started off with the 500m, won by Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC) in 44.050. She was never threatened in the final, easily cruising to the finish line, with Andréa Do-Duc (Montréal, QC) behind her in 44.144. Maltais took the third position in 44.194 and Drolet, who fell in the last corner, was fourth.
On to the 1000m, all girls wanted good races as it would determine who would make the team. St-Gelais started out front, but Lambert passed her outside in the first lap. St-Gelais was quick to get back out front, with an inside pass, and she managed to create a gap with the other skaters, crossing the finish line in 1:31.339. With six laps to go, Gabrielle Waddell tried an outside pass but collided with Lambert and fell. Lambert was later disqualified and Waddell, after getting back up, finished third. Marie-Ève Drolet was the other skater in the final, and she took the second position in 1:32.945.
Meanwhile, in the B final, Marie-Andrée Mendes-Campeau (Montréal, QC), Maltais and Do-Duc went all out, and all three skated under the old Canadian record held by Kalyna Roberge (1:29.870). Mendes-Campeau’s name will now be in the records book as she crossed the finish line in 1:29.132.
St-Gelais finished on top of the women’s combined ranking, thanks to three victories over four races (she sat out the 500m events due to an injury suffered earlier this week). Maltais took the second place with two second places (1500m), one first and one third (500m). Drolet takes the third spot on the World Cup team thanks to two second places in the 1000m, a third and a sixth in the 1500m.
On the men side, Charles Hamelin took the honours in the 500m. François-Louis Tremblay (Boucherville, QC) actually led most of the race, but Hamelin, who was just behind, overtook him at the finish line in 41.470. Tremblay had to settle for second place in 41.480. Allyn Gagnon was in third place all along, finishing in 41.849 and François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC) took the fourth position in 42.113. Liam McFarlane (Medicine Hat, AB) fell mid-race and had to settle for fifth place.
In the 1000m, Olivier Jean knew he needed to pull off a victory in order to make the World Cup team, and he did just that. It was a tight race to the finish between him and Gilday, but Jean took the lead with five laps to go with an inside pass and managed to win in 1:24.793. Gilday crossed the finish close behind in 1:24.844, and Rémi Beaulieu (Alma, QC) was third (1:24.968). Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) and Dustin Miller were the last two skaters in the final and they finished fourth and fifth respectively (1:25.800 and 1:26.252).
Overall, Charles Hamelin takes the first position on the World Cup team, thanks to a first and second place in the 500m and a first and third in the 1500m. While he won the first 1000m race, he sat out the second because of a small injury. Michael Gilday is second overall with a fist and third place in the 1500m, and a second and third place in the 1000m. Olivier Jean’s victory in the 1000m, combined to a fifth place in that distance yesterday, as well as a second and fourth place in the 1500m, secured the third spot. Jean is however not planning on racing the first World Cup events this Fall, as he now wants to remain in Calgary and take part in the Long Track Fall World Cup Selections next month.
Speed Skating Canada’s High Performance Short Track Committee will meet in the next week to select the other three women and four men who will have the chance to represent Canada at the four stops of the World Cup Circuit taking place this fall.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Recently, I was reading a few articles that were posted on TSN.ca about women’s hockey, and the lack of competition that exists within this sport. As some may know, the sport is dominated by two countries, Canada and the USA. Together they have won every World Championship since they began holding the world championships in 1990. At the recent World Hockey Summit, the basic debate surrounding women’s hockey is how to increase the competitiveness of women’s hockey in more countries around the world so the same two teams are not the only ones winning major championships and Olympic Games.
Anyways, this got me thinking about Short Track. Now obviously, Short track is not dominated by only two countries as women’s hockey is, right? Well as much as I’d like to say it isn’t, if you look at some numbers from past Olympics its easy to see that the sport is predominantly dominated by two countries on the men’s side, South Korea and Canada, and two countries on the women’s side, China and South Korea. Of the 120 medals that have been handed out at the Olympics (both genders) since Short Track became an Olympic event, Korea has won 37 or 31%, Canada has won 25 or 21% and China has won 24 or 21%. Add that up and you have three countries winning 72% of Olympic medals. The rest of the medals are scattered across a number of countries with a major (18 or 15%) going to the USA.
So these numbers beg the question, does short track have a similar problem to that of women’s hockey where a small number of countries dominate the podiums? My simple answer is no. Why? Well there are several reasons.
First of all, our sport has three (and more recently four) “superpowers”. These of course being South Korea, Canada and China, with the USA following closely behind and quickly catching up. Compare this to women’s hockey, which only has two “superpowers”.
Secondly, the sport is still quite young as Olympic sports go (although the same could be argued for women’s hockey as it joined the Olympics in 1998) and continues to grow, especially in Europe, a continent that is traditionally a winter sports mecca. Not surprisingly, those countries that have a history of short track since the beginning are strongest. But the sport continues to grow. On the world cup circuit we increasingly see skaters from non-traditional short track countries getting into A- finals and threatening podiums. We have also witnessed coaches from traditional short track powers move to countries with newer short track programs and bring the level of those countries skaters up to a higher level. Primarily we have seen this with South Korean coaches such as Jae-Su Chun who is coaching the American team, as well as his brother Kevin recently joined the Great Britain team and others who coach in France and at various clubs across the USA. Coaches from Canada and China have also ventured overseas to spread their knowledge. Eric Bedard spent the last two seasons as the head coach of the German team and Li Yan coached in the US before heading back to China. Australian and Polish teams have also employed Chinese coaches at one time or another. This spread of knowledge across borders can only help the sport as it brings the level of less skilled skaters up and forces those at the top to continue to innovate if they wish to continue winning. Better results from non-traditional short track countries also increases interest in the sport, theoretically increasing growth as well.
Thirdly, Short Track is not over-shadowed by a bigger, more popular sibling, as is the case with women’s hockey. The NHL and men’s professional leagues are big business in North America and Europe and command a huge portion of attention away from the women’s game. Some might argue that short track may have in fact experience this syndrome from Long Track, but the reality is that Short and Long Track skating share very little other than two skates and some ice, whereas men’s and women’s hockey are simply separated by gender. There are also no professional leagues in speed skating, with the exception of the Netherlands, which has several professional Long Track teams. Despite this, neither short or long track receive lopsided media attention when compared to the other, as in men’s vs. women’s hockey, which puts the two on even ground for growth in interest and exposure, even if both sport are starting out with levels of exposure that are very low compared to mainstream sports (exception again being Long Track in the Netherlands.)
So that’s my take. Obviously my analysis is a little narrow, as it does not account for the fact that hockey is a team sport, while short track is not. There are probably several other problems with this analysis, but I think overall, it is fair to say that short track is not experiencing the problems that women’s hockey is, at least not to the same extent.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment and add to the discussion or let me know what you think!