With Wang Meng back on the ice and in top form, Jessica Gregg and the Canadian women’s short track speed skating team have a real race on their hands.
Gregg claimed silver in the women’s sprint as Canada won three medals on Saturday in the women’s and men’s 500-metre events in World Cup short-track speedskating.
Wang won her second straight women’s 500-metre final and Liang Wenhao won the men’s 500-metre gold medal as China swept both sprint events at the Maurice Richard Arena.
Wang, the world record holder and two-time Olympic champion in the sprint event, also won last weekend in Calgary when she returned from a 13-month suspension following an altercation with a coach.
“We’re both kind of coming back so it’s kind of making the 500 that much more exciting,” said Gregg, who is trying to bounce back from an injury-plagued season. “We’re both battling so it’s kind of nice to have the best in the world to skate against again.”
Edmonton’s Gregg reached out at the finish line to beat out Meng’s teammate, Liu Quihong, who claimed bronze.
“It was really close at the line,” said Gregg. “All four of us are really fast 500-metre skaters so it was going to come down to the finish. I just tried to hold my position and get a good shot at the line, and I was able to stay in second.”
Marianne St-Gelais of Saint-Felicien, Que., finished fourth in the women’s 500-metre final. She had been questionable for the meet earlier in the week after hitting her head in a spill during last weekend’s event in Calgary.
“I was a little bit scared because we had to go through a process with steps and I was at the fourth step on Thursday so I was afraid that I might not be on the ice Friday,” St-Gelais said. “For me that was a little concussion. I think my helmet saved my life this time.”
In men’s competition, Charles Hamelin of Sainte-Julie, Que., took silver and Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., won bronze in the 500-metre event.
“Olivier and I had a big battle and I think that’s what cost us gold and silver,” Hamelin said. “We lost speed every time we passed each other. The ice here isn’t fast enough to make tight passes without losing speed and that’s what cost us the gold medal.”
The Canadian women’s team recovered from an early slip to qualify for Sunday’s 3000-metre relay final along with South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.
The men’s squad finished third in its semi-final, behind Great Britain and China, and failed to qualify for the 5000-metre relay final.
“We’re disappointed for sure and I’m especially disappointed because I made the mistake,” said Jean, who skated five 500-metre races Saturday, including three races in the morning repechage. “I could have made a better pass than that, just be more careful with the contact.”
South Korea and the United States also advanced to the men’s relay final. Canada will compete in the relegation final.
“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” Canadian short track director Yves Hamelin said.
Suk Hee Shim and Ha-Ri Cho finished first and second, respectively, in the women’s 1500-metre final as South Korea came close to sweeping the event.
China’s Li Jianrou prevented a 1-2-3 finish for South Korea when she burst past Min-Jung Kim after the final turn to take the bronze.
Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., finished fifth.
Jinkyu Noh of South Korea won gold in the men’s 1500-metre final. American J.R. Celski finished second and Semen Elistratov of Russia came in third. Yellowknife’s Michael Gilday was fifth.