Calgary, October 25, 2015 – Ben Donnelly of Oshawa, Ontario, and Kali Christ of Regina, Saskatchewan, respectively won the men's and women's 1500m races while Rob Watson of Whitby, Ontario, and Josie Spence of Kamloops, British Columbia, finished first in the mass start, a new Olympic discipline, on the last day of Speed Skating Canada's Fall World Cup Selections, Sunday.
In the men's 1500m, national junior champion Ben Donnelly beat his personal best on his way to victory with a time of 1:47.30. He finished ahead of Ted-Jan Bloemen, from Calgary (1:47.81), and Olivier Jean (1:48.02) of Lachenaie, Quebec.
On the women's side, Kali Christ finished ahead of Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin by four hundredths of a second, on her way to winning the 1500m. Christ registered a time of 1:57.03, compared to 1:57.07 for Blondin. Brianne Tutt of Airdrie, Alberta, followed in third place (1:58.56).
By coming up with a time of 1:47.30, Ben Donnelly, who is 19 years old and will still be eligible to skate at the World Junior Championships in 2016, improved his previous personal best by 90 hundredths of a second. It was Donnelly's second top-3 result of the competition, as he came up with a third-place finish in Thursday's 5000m.
“I was trying to focus on the opener because usually I don’t open too fast but today, I went faster and was able to carry my speed into the first and second lap, which allowed me in the long run to come up with a big personal best,” said Donnelly. “This will motivate me to push harder so that I can skate faster and do well at the Junior Worlds.”
As for Olivier Jean, who won an Olympic gold medal in short track speed skating at the Vancouver Games, his third-place result in the 1500m is his first career top-3 at long track selections. In Saturday's 1000m, he ended up ninth.
“Yes, I'm happy with my third position in the 1500m, but right now the main objective is not the result, but just to try to learn the sport and try to give the best performance I can, and I didn’t do that today. I'm very disappointed with how I skated,” said Jean. “This weekend wasn’t about ranking or time. It was about being in the right process trying to work on my technical and strategic focus. I didn’t skate like I was supposed to race.”
Jean decided a few weeks ago to forgo taking part in the first four World Cup stages of the short track season in order to make a serious attempt at making it in long track. When he did that, he notably had in mind the mass start event, which will make its debut at the 2018 Olympic Games. In Sunday's race, however, he fell in the next-to-last turn, while he was skating in second place with one lap to go.
“I was really confident skating in the pack, I took some great decisions. I was second in the last lap, feeling really good physically and mentally, I was able to read the people around me thanks to my short track and inline experience,” Jean noted. “Unfortunately, I fell on my own in the second-to-last corner while I was trying to pick up speed to go overtake on the outside. I’m still figuring out my blades, everything is so new, but it was a really good race for my first time and it showed that I have good potential.”
Rob Watson of Whitby, Ontario, won the men's mass start, followed by Jordan Belchos of Toronto and Christopher Fiola of Montreal.
“It was a really fast race, but my goal was to stay relaxed and stay calm for as long as I could. I was able to save up enough energy for the end and I felt really strong,”.said Watson, who was 17th in the mass start at the 2015 World Single Distance Championships and second at the national level last season.
All in the family in the women's mass start
On the women's side, Ivanie Blondin, the 2014-2015 overall World Cup champion in mass start, did not take part in Sunday's race in that discipline, as she has already prequalified for this fall's World Cups after winning a silver medal at the 2015 World Single Distance Championships. The skater who took advantage of that absence was Josie Spence.
Josie Spence's victory, Sunday, was all the more sweet that she shared the podium with her sisters Victoria and Sarah, who respectively finished second and third.
It was Josie Spence's second top-3 result of the competition, after she came up with third place in Thursday's 3000m.
“The win means so much more to me because I had my sisters on the podium with me,” said Josie Spence. “It's encouraging and we're pushing each other to be stronger.”
“Personally, I was really happy that a couple skaters that had a race plan phased out quicker. That gives me the advantage because I have more endurance than some of the faster skaters,” also explained Josie Spence, who was fourth in this discipline last season at the national level. “I sat in front and felt really relaxed, and then punched it at the end. Mass start is a waiting game, and I definitely waited it out in the right way.”
Kali Christ wins women's 1500m
In the women's 1500m, Kali Christ (1:57.03) picked up her first podium result of the competition, a win, as she finished ahead of Ivanie Blondin (1:57.07) and Brianne Tutt (1:58.56).
“After this race, I know I have a lot more in me,” said Christ, who was ranked first in the country in this distance last season, while Blondin was second. “I’m going to work on my technical cues and incorporate those into my races, making sure everything is going in the right direction.”
The list of Canadian team members will be announced over the next few weeks ahead of the first ISU Long Track World Cup of the season, set to take place from November 13 to 15 at Calgary's Olympic Oval.
The 57 skaters who took part in this competition, held at the same time as the Oval Invitational events, were attempting to earn a spot on the team that will represent Canada at the first four ISU Long Track Speed Skating World Cup stages slated for this fall, i.e. in Calgary (November 13-15), Salt Lake City, USA (November 20-22), Inzell, Germany (December 4-6) and Heerenveen, Netherlands (December 11-13).
More details and the complete schedule are available on Speed Skating Canada’s website at www.speedskating.ca.