Canadian Roundup: Winter athletes lead off with world leading performances
It’s that time of year when summer sports start to give way to winter sports, but for now we still get the best of both worlds.
This past weekend saw plenty of Canadian success, both internationally and at home, including some in the water and on its frozen counterpart.
The six-stop ISU Grand Prix series began with Skate America in Chicago. In the pairs event, Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau laid down a clean free skate, showing growth in their maturity and performance, to move from third place after the short program to the top step of the podium. Their first career Grand Prix victory comes in just their second season as senior competitors and is a great sign after they missed the end of last season when Séguin suffered a high ankle sprain. Gabrielle Daleman was an impressive fourth in the ladies’ event while Nam Nguyen finished sixth in the men’s event with two great skates, bouncing back from last season when he struggled with a growth spurt.
Long Track Speed Skating
There were multiple world-leading performances by Canadian skaters at the Long Track Fall World Cup Selections in Calgary. After Gilmore Junio won the first 500m on Friday in 34.51, world bronze medallist Alex Boisvert-Lacroix lowered the season-best mark to 34.51 in Saturday’s second 500m race. Vincent de Haître won the 1500m in a season-best 1:44.27, finishing one spot ahead of four-time Olympic medallist Denny Morrison. A day earlier, de Haître had won the 1000m ahead of Junio and Laurent Dubreuil while Morrison finished fourth in his first sanctioned competition in 18 months after his motorcycle accident and stroke. Morrison was able to meet the World Cup selection standard in both events.
“I’m feeling happy right now, especially about being in the hunt with the top guys. These are some of the best sprinters in the world,” said Morrison. “Based on where I am regarding my recovery, it feels good to be in the hunt like this.”
Mass start world champion Ivanie Blondin was the victor in four distances, winning the 1000m, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. She skipped the mass start, in which she was pre-selected for the World Cups, due to bursitis in her ankle. The men’s mass start was won by short track convert and Vancouver 2010 relay gold medallist Olivier Jean. Ted-Jan Bloemen won the men’s 5000m before being DQed from the 10,000m, the event in which he is the world record holder, but his world silver medal pre-qualified him for the World Cups in the distance. Marsha Hudey won both women’s 500m races with three-time World Cup medallist Heather McLean unable to race due to a viral sinus infection. She can still request a bye to the World Cup team, which will be announced ahead of the season opener in Harbin, China on November 11-13.
Canadian champions were crowned in Whistler, led by Alex Gough taking her eighth title in women’s singles with the two top times. She was followed closely by Kim McRae with Rachel Klassen just behind. Three-time Olympian Sam Edney returned from his season away from the sport, during which he completed his commerce degree, to win the men’s singles title over Mitchel Malyk, who had stepped up last season to help Canada win World Cup and world championship medals in the team relay. Reid Watt, the 17-year-old who won bronze at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, finished third. In the doubles event, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith posted a track record in their first run down the Whistler Sliding Centre to win their seventh straight national title ahead of a couple of teenagers, Matt Riddle and Adam Shippit. The Canadian luge team is now preparing for the start of the World Cup season at the end of November in Winterberg, Germany.
“To not only see the success Mitch had last year, but to see the young guys who are from Whistler coming up behind us is showing the depth of our program. It does take a lot of pressure off me, but it adds pressure too,” said Edney. “It is going to be a great couple of years.”
The national selection races for skeleton concluded with two runs in Calgary after two earlier runs in Whistler. Former world medallist Elisabeth Vathje claimed top spot in three of the four runs while last year’s top-ranked Canadian Jane Channell took the victory in the other and was the runner-up twice. Ski jumper turned skeleton racer Barrett Martineau also won three of the four men’s runs with Dave Greszczyszyn taking first place in the other while finishing second twice. At the national bobsleigh selection races in Whistler, two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries set a track record of 52.42 seconds with Cynthia Appiah in their first run in Whistler.
Daniel Nestor and French partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin won the men’s doubles title at the European Open in Antwerp, defeating top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday. It was Nestor’s third title of the season and gives him an all-time ATP World Tour doubles final record of 91-59. Now 44, Nestor has won at least one doubles title every season dating back to 1994.
“Anti-inflammatories, good partners. At this point in my career, whenever somebody asks me to play, I say yes,” Nestor said about what’s behind his continued success and longevity. “Eddie and I have always played well together, so we tried to take the opportunity.”
It’s the start of a new swimming season, marked by a trio of FINA World Cup stops, contested in short course (25m) pools in Asia over a nine-day period. At the first of those three stops in Singapore, Katerine Savard won bronze in the 100m butterfly and came within a tenth of a second of the podium in the 50m butterfly. She also made the finals of the 100m individual medley and 100m freestyle. Hilary Caldwell, who won 200m backstroke bronze in Rio, finished fourth in that event at the World Cup, where the shorter pool means swimmers make more turns, and fifth in the 100m backstroke. Olympic relay medallist Michelle Williams finished fourth in the 50m freestyle and posted a fifth place finish in the 100m freestyle. Canada has nine swimmers competing on the circuit as a tune-up for the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) to be held December 6-11 in Windsor, Ontario.
“I’m very pleased with the result,” said Savard. “This was my first international race since the Olympics and my first 100m fly since the trials and I really didn’t know what to expect. It was great to be back racing again.”
On Monday, Olympic relay medallist and national record holder in the distance freestyle events Brittany MacLean announced her retirement at age 22.