2-Time Olympian and Olympic Medalist Honoured
By Ryan Ohashi / Photo: Arno Hoogveld
Sunday afternoon wrapped up a weekend at World Cup Short Track in Calgary with many highs for the Canadians including the Oval’s own Alison Desmarais making her World Cup debut. One of only two Western Canadians to qualify for the Canadian World Cup team, Desmarais delighted the crowd all weekend.
The Olympic Oval has a history of producing, training and being home to elite long track and short track athletes. One such athlete, Jessica Gregg (BKin ’14, BEd ’17) was honoured on Sunday with her induction to the Olympic Oval Hall of Champions.
Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta – Jessica Gregg is a truly Oval-grown athlete with a family history in sport. Her mother Kathy competed as an Olympic long track speed skater while her father Randy was a hockey player who is a two time Olympian. Her older brother Jamie was a member of the long track national team and is a two time Olympian as well.
“The Oval is a special place, my mom was pregnant with me in the '88 Olympics here and growing up it was always a treat to come here to skate instead of being outside in the cold back in Edmonton” said Gregg reminiscing “It was always special to come here and race against my friends growing up in Alberta and then later getting to race World Cups here both on short track and long track, the Oval is definitely an iconic part of my athletic career and always will be.”
“In 2006, I was so excited to move here and train. I moved with Jamie and it was kind of this special moment where we were able to both be here and train with all these teammates from around Western Canada who had moved here to. It was 4 years before the Olympics so we geared up for Vancouver and I was lucky enough to make that team and so it was kind of the dream where I had just moved, got to train on the Fastest Ice in the World and got to learn how to really skate short track.”
Gregg made her Olympic made her Olympic debut at Vancouver in 2010. She was part of the silver medal-winning 3000m relay squad in Vancouver alongside Tania Vicent, who was honoured this weekend as well. Gregg also came close to standing on the podium by herself when she finished fourth in the 500m.
“My first games were Tania's fourth so she was always a veteran and a role model for all of us, she was such an amazing skater for so many years. We all looked up to her, hoping to have long careers ourselves.” said Gregg “It's special to have her also being honoured this weekend, kind of spotlight short track here at the Oval”
In 2014, Gregg would become a two time Olympian as an alternate for the relay team. Gregg would then switch from short track to long track where she immediately claimed three silver medals in the 500m and in the 1000m at the 2015 Canadian Single Distance Championships while qualifying for the World Championships. Over her career she also amassed five World Championship short track medals including an individual bronze medal in the 500m at the 2009 World Championships. On the World Cup Short Track circuit, she earned four gold, five silver and 12 bronze medals, as well as one silver and one bronze medal at the World Team Championships.
Both Gregg and Vicent’s banners will join fellow Canadian short track Olympic medalists Alanna Kraus and Derek Campbell, as well as long track Olympic medalists Susan Auch, Kevin Crockett, Kristina Groves, Clara Hughes, Cindy Klassen, Catriona Le May Doan and Jeremy Wotherspoon.
“I looked up to all those skaters who have been honoured so it's kind of surreal now that I will have my picture up there hanging next to them” said Gregg “It brings back a lot of great memories when I come back here - it always feels like home.”
The Hall of Champions is a celebration of Canadian speed skating athletes who have trained at the Olympic Oval in both Long Track and Short Track skating. The honour is bestowed on those who are Olympic medalists and are now retired from the sport.
Hungary sets World Record on the Fastest Ice in the World
By Abby Andreasen / Photo: Dave Holland
The Calgary Short Track World Cup wrapped up this Sunday with some big surprises for fans and competitors alike!
The surprises started with the Women’s 500m final with yesterday’s first place, Polish skater, Natalia Maliszewska, placing fourth. Yet, today, Canadian skater, Alyson Charles stayed consistent, placing third like she did yesterday. After the loss of yesterday’s 500m race, Chinese skater, Kexin Fan, came back to claim second place. And, in first position, Dutch skater, Lara Van Ruijven.
It was another exciting day for the second Men’s 500m! In the semi-finals we finally saw the dominant Chinese skater, Dajing Wu, coming in second. So, today was riveting to watch Dajing Wu, the World Record holder for this distance to see if he could hold the place he has historically won. When the race began, Wu, remained in second for several laps. However, he demonstrated his strength and finished in first again, receiving another gold medal in this World Cup. In second was Kazakhstan skater, Abzal Azhgalyev and in third was Hungary skater, Shaolin Sandor Liu.
The Women’s 1000m final brought another gold medal for Olympic Champion, Dutch skater, Suzanne Schulting. No surprise there as she was at least half a lap ahead of all the other skaters. Russian skater, Sofia Prosvirnova, placed in second in this A final. Seasoned French skater, Veronique Pierron claimed third position and won the first medal for the French team this World Cup.
In the Men’s 1000m semi-final first heat brought the first real injury of the competition. Korean skater, Gun Woo Kim, fell in the last corner, spinning out of control as he laid on speed. He lay on the ice while the paramedics looked after him, eventually taking him out on a stretcher. Everyone hopes for a speedy recovery for him! In the final of the 1000m was, first Hungary skater, Shaoang Liu, second, Korean skater, Jil Won Park and third, Chinese skater, Ziwei Ren.
The event Mixed-Gender Relay made its debut at this World Cup. It is a very exciting race that has both female and male skaters racing together. The first winner of this super exciting race was the Chinese team, in second was the Dutch team and in third was the Korean team. When being interviewed, Dutch skater said when asked about their second place, “hopefully this is one more step closer to our success at next week’s competition!”
The Women’s 3000m Relay finished with a gold for the Russian team, silver for the Korean team and bronze for the Canadian team. The female Canadian team achieved a Canadian lap record in their race!
The Men’s 5000m Relay was a spectacle you would not have wanted to miss! All the teams flew around the ice, fighting fiercely for the win in this race! Making a World Record was team Hungary in first place with a time of 6:28.625. In second was team Korea and in third was team Netherlands.
Overall, this short Track World Cup Competition was a huge success with so many memorable moments from each of the races! The Korean Team did not dominate as they have previously in Short Track Competition giving way to the Chinese team who dominated almost all of the races, perhaps in part due to the very lively audience support they enjoyed! Wishing all of the Athletes the best of luck in the upcoming World Cup in Salt Lake City. Thank you all for bringing such a sense of community and camaraderie to our ice and to our city.