Photo: Minas Panagiotakis
Photo: Minas Panagiotakis

2017-18 Winter Preview: Short trackers set out to secure Olympic qualification

Canada’s short track speed skating team for PyeongChang 2018 has already been announced.

RELATED: 10 short track speed skaters nominated to Team Canada for PyeongChang 2018

Now they take on the task of qualifying that full team to compete in South Korea in February. They will soon be heading off to Europe and Asia for the four stops of the ISU World Cup circuit which will double as Olympic qualification events.

Who is competing?

Olympic team nominees:

Kim Boutin                       Charle Cournoyer
Kasandra Bradette          Pascal Dion
Jamie Macdonald            Samuel Girard
Valérie Maltais                Charles Hamelin
Marianne St-Gelais         François Hamelin

Additional athletes:

Audrey Phanuef               Steven Dubois

When and where are they competing?

September 28-October 1 in Budapest, Hungary
October 5-8 in Dordrecht, Netherlands
November 9-12 in Shanghai, China
November 16-19 in Seoul, South Korea

How do they qualify for PyeongChang 2018?

For all 10 nominated skaters to make it to PyeongChang, Canada needs to qualify both the men’s and women’s relay teams – something the country has never not done. Only eight countries will qualify for each of the women’s 3000m and men’s 5000m relays.

For all eight events on the Olympic program (500m, 1000m, 1500m, relays), the three best results out of four achieved by each skater at the World Cup stops will be used to establish qualification rankings in each distance. In addition to qualifying the relay teams, the Canadians are aiming to earn the maximum three starters in each of the individual Olympic events.

The International Skating Union will publish the Olympic qualification rankings in early December.

What should we watch for?

Charles Hamelin of Canada, who won the gold medal in men’s 1500m short track speed skating smiles while standing on the podium during the medals ceremony at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Charles Hamelin could potentially make some Olympic history in PyeongChang. With four Olympic medals in his trophy case, he needs one to tie as Canada’s most decorated male Olympian, two to tie as Canada’s most decorated Olympian, and three to stand alone with that last title. Already holding three Olympic gold medals, he needs one more trip to the top of the podium to tie the Canadian record. If that were to come in the 1000m, that would make him an Olympic champion in all four short track events.

RELATED: Veteran leader Hamelin hopes to leave winning legacy with teammates

Canada’s silver medalist Marianne St-Gelais reacts during the women’s 500m short track medal ceremony at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Also looking ahead to her final Olympic season is three-time Olympic medallist Marianne St-Gelais. She may have missed the national trials because of a concussion, but is coming off a very strong world championships where she won silver medals in all three individual events. Because of the slower start to her season, St-Gelais will only race the 500m at the first World Cup stop, with a focus on being at her best in February.

Marie-Ève Drolet, Jessica Hewitt, Valérie Maltais and Marianne St-Gelais holding the Canadian flag in celebration of their 3000m relay Olympic silver medal win at Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: CP)

The Canadian women’s 3000m relay team has never missed the Olympic podium, winning one gold, four silver and two bronze since short track’s official debut at Albertville 1992. No other country can lay claim to that string of success. Canada also has more men’s 5000m relay Olympic medals than any other country, posting five podium finishes, including three gold.

Canada’s Charle Cournoyer celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the men’s 500 metre final at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Friday, February 21, 2014 in Sochi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Three of the women (Kim Boutin, Kasandra Bradette, Jamie Macdonald) and two of men (Samuel Girard, Pascal Dion) may be on the verge of making their Olympic debuts, but rookies have made major impacts in the past. At Vancouver 2010 it was Marianne St-Gelais who celebrated her 20th birthday with a silver medal in the 500m. At Sochi 2014 it was Charle Cournoyer who came through on the last day of competition with a bronze in the 500m. The quintet has this fall to build on their past international successes. All have stood on World Cup podiums before, with Bradette and Girard also claiming hardware at the world championships.