Photo: CP Images

Nesbitt, Hamelin Taking Charge

Canada’s speed skaters took the world by storm this weekend and Olympic champions Christine Nesbitt and Charles Hamelin led the way, each capturing a gold medal.

At the ISU World Cup #4 at the Nagano Olympic Memorial Arena in Japan on Sunday, Nesbitt stood at the top of the podium in the 1,000 metres race to win her fourth individual gold medal of the season after clocking a time of one minute and 15.13 seconds. Nesbitt was victorious on a day when Canadians grabbed four medals.

Gilmore Junio won his first career World Cup medal with a second place finish in the 500 metres, and Denny Morrison also earned silver in the 1,000 metres. The fourth medal on the day was gold as Junio, Tyler Derraugh and William Dutton took first place in the team sprint demonstration race.

“I was in the last pair with Heather Richardson, who won the previous two 1,000’s of the season. So I knew that she was going to be fast and she’s been skating well,” said Nesbitt. “But I felt this week that things have been coming together more and more in my own skating. So I was kind of excited. She (Richardson) was pretty far ahead with one lap to go, but I dug really deep in the last back-straightaway and I didn’t let her out of my sight. I felt like I went out for the hunt and I got her at the line, which is a really nice feeling.”

In the men’s 1,000 metres, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., won his second medal this season taking silver in a time of one minute 9.64 seconds.

“The race itself went pretty. It was a lot better than yesterday’s – just a lot smoother and doing the things I want to do in the race,” said Morrison. “There’s still a lot to improve on, but I was fortunate enough to win.”

In the men’s 500-metre race, Calgary’s Gilmore Junio won his first career World Cup medal taking silver in a time of 35.16 seconds.

“I’m pretty excited about my first World Cup medal and it sets out the season really nicely,” said Junio, “and I’m really excited about Harbin (next World Cup in China, Dec. 15-16) and the rest of the season.”

In China and Japan, Canadians stepped on the short and long track World Cup podiums seven times on Saturday. 2010 Olympic champion Charles Hamelin captured gold at the ISU World Cup #4 at the Shanghai Oriental Sport Mansion in Shanghai, China. The first place finished marked Hamelin’s seventh medal of the season

Marianne St. Gelais earned bronze in the women’s 500-metre final after racing to a time of 53.900 seconds.  The men’s relay team also won bronze today. In long track action in Japan, Canadians won a gold and two silver individual medals and gold in men’s team sprint.

Canada’s relay team of Charles Hamelin, Guillaume Bastille, François Hamelin and Michael Gilday won the bronze medal in the men’s relay final in a time of 6:41.760. Gilday added to a weekend medal haul that included a bronze medal in the 1,500 metres.

“The final went well. I had a good start,” said Bastille. “I was well positioned and everything. But at the end there was a little contact and quite a few skaters fell. I was one of those to get up quickly. There were also disqualifications, so it was a somewhat amazing final. But I still managed to finish third with all that happened.”

Skaters reach podium in Sochi
Canadian had a chance to test out the Iceberg Skating Palace, the site for Figure Skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics and Canada walked away with two medals courtesy of Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Olympian Patrick Chan.

Virtue of London, ON, and Moir of Ilderton, ON, finished just behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White (183.49) to capture silver with 179.83 points.

“It was a great skate for us,” said Virtue. “We had to fight through it but that’s not surprising considering the intensity of the competition. We are where we want to be at this point and we just have to go home and fine tune the program. There’s a lot of room to grow.”

In the men’s competition, two-time reigning world champion Chan grabbed the bronze medal with a score of 258.66.

“I was disappointed with my skate but you win some, you lose some,” said Chan, the two-time defending Grand Prix Final champion. “This biggest thing I learned is not to hold back and really attack the program. I needed to have the sense of eagerness I had earlier this year.”

Maltais golden in Snowboard
Olympic bronze medallist Dominique Maltais kicked off the 2012-2013 snowboard cross season with a World Cup victory this past weekend in Montafon, Austria. The finish marked the Petite-Riviere-Saint-Francois, Que., native’s first World Cup victory outside Canada in two years.

Maltais won a course-long duel with Raffaella Brutto of Italy.

“I worked hard all summer, practised to stay strong and be comfortable when passing,” said Maltais. “I was fighting with her all the way. There were a couple of passes but I passed her about 100 metres before the finish.”