Canadian speed skaters have ‘perfect day’ at world short track championships

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Canadian Olympic speedskaters Kim Boutin, Samuel Girard and Charles Hamelin all had a perfect day in qualifying at the world short track championships on Friday.

Boutin, Girard and Hamelin earned spots in the final rounds of each of the three individual events in which they were competing.

Their teammates Marianne St-Gelais and Jamie MacDonald qualified in two of the three distances.

Boutin, from Sherbrooke, Que., skated to the final rounds in the 500-metre, 1,000 and 1,500 by finishing first in her heat in each of the three distances, as did Girard, from Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que., on the men’s side.

“I’m back to the energy level I was before after having a little low following the Olympics,” said Boutin, who won a medal in each of the three individual distances at the Pyeongchang Olympics. “I felt confident out there on the ice, it went well, and I feel confident I will be able to keep my energy level up until Sunday.

Mental, physical challenge

“World championships are very different from Olympic Games because here, all the races happen over three days only, so it’s a challenge mentally and physically. The key is to manage one’s energy level well.”

Girard won gold in the 1,000 at the Olympics and was third in overall standings at last year’s world championships.

Hamelin, from Sainte-Julie, Que., achieved the same result as Boutin and Girard by finishing first of his heat in the 500 and 1,500, and second in the 1,000.

“That was the goal, to qualify for each of the three distances, regardless of the fact that I would finish first, second or third [in qualifying]. I can therefore say mission accomplished,” said Hamelin, who was second overall at the 2016 World Championships. “I felt great out there on the ice, everything was going really well — the body, the blades, my head also — so it bodes well for the weekend. Now, I’m just looking forward to skating out there in front of the crowd, at home.”

St-Gelais, from Saint-Felicien, Que., qualified for the final rounds in the 500 and 1,000-metre distances by finishing first in her qualifying heat each time. MacDonald, from Fort St. James, B.C., qualified in the 500 (second in her heat) and the 1,000 (first in her heat).

In the women’s 1,500 metres, St-Gelais was fifth in her heat while MacDonald was sixth, both following a fall.

Montreal’s Pascal Dion, who was taking part in individual races at the world championships for the first time, did not qualify in any of the three distances.