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Canada guarantees maximum number of speed skaters on start lines at Winter Olympics

Canada's Valerie Maltais won silver duirng a World Cup speed skating event in Kolomna, Russia on Saturday. (file photo)

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS

Canada will have the maximum number of three short-track speed skaters at the start lines of each distance at the Sochi Winter Olympics after successfully competing in Saturday's World Cup event in Russia.

Valerie Maltais skated with precision in the 1,500-metre semifinal to take silver, while Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., finished 12th. Marianne St-Gelais, impeded by a virus, finished the morning's quarter-finals in 19th spot.

Edmonton's Jessica Gregg nearly took the podium in the 500, finishing fourth. St-Gelais finished 14th in that event and Hewitt, who didn't make it through the qualifying round, took 22nd place.

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"Our women's team couldn't afford to falter in the 500 and 1,500 events; all three skaters had to make the semis to guarantee our three spots," said short track program director Yves Hamelin. "Despite Marianne's health issues, our three skaters made it through with flying colours."

Hamelin said the Canadian team set its sights high for the Olympic qualifiers during its recent training camp in Budapest.

"It's mission accomplished," Hamelin said.

In the men's 1,500 semifinal, Charles Hamelin was dragged into a violent fall by American skater John Henry Kruger. Hamelin, from Ste-Julie, Que., suffered a bruised leg and was taken out of the day's races as a precautionary measure. It is still too early to determine whether he will skate on Sunday, but he will be evaluated again in the morning.

Hamelin took 11th place despite the fall, and his brother Francois had the best Canadian result, finishing ninth. Yellowknife's Michael Gilday finished in 18th place.

Charle Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., led the B Final wave from start to finish until the last turn. He finished sixth despite a dislocated shoulder, which he sustained during a fall in Friday's 1,000.

In the men's sprint, Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., was fourth.

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