Inzell, Germany, December 4, 2015 – Canada came within 0.002 seconds of sweeping the podium in the men's 500m at the ISU Long Track World Cup held in Inzell, Germany, Friday, as Gilmore Junio of Calgary won gold and Alexandre St-Jean, from Québec City, picked up silver. Laurent Dubreuil, of Lévis, QC, came agonizingly close to a podium finish as well, ending up fourth.
Gilmore Junio skated to a time of 34.86 seconds to finish ahead of his teammate Alexandre St-Jean by four hundredths of a second (34.90). Poland's Artur Was collected the bronze medal by only one thousandth of a second (34.971) ahead of Dubreuil. Russia's Pavel Kulizhnikov, the World Cup standings leader in the 500m distance, did not skate in the race due to health issues.
“It was definitively one of my most complete races this season,” said Junio. “In past races, I approached it as something bigger than it was. Today, I saw it as another race and as another day in training. I think that kept me calm and right off the gun, I simply thought about the things I work on in training. That really helped my mindset -- and my lap times.”
This is Junio's first medal since the bronze he collected at the World Cup Final held in March of 2014 in Heerenveen, Netherlands. He was also the last Canadian to win a gold medal in a men's 500m race, a feat he shared with Japan's Kato Joji at the second stage of the 2013-2014 World Cup season in Salt Lake City, United States.
“It’s a great feeling to get this monkey off my back,” recognized Junio. “It’s great to have some confidence back. Even if it was an emptier field without Pavel Kulizhnikov, you still have to go out there and beat the other guys on the ice.”
The 2014 Olympian came close to winning a bronze at the first stage of the World Cup season, a few weeks ago in Calgary, as he finished fourth, four thousandths of a second away from a podium finish.
“It was a bit discouraging! It's always bittersweet to finish four thousandths of a second away from a medal in your hometown. Winning a medal in Calgary is something I still dream of,” said Junio.
“Hopefully I can do this again and have the sprint team on the podium with me. At the 1998 Olympic Games, Canada finished 2-3-4, and I think we presently have a team of that calibre.”
Alex Boisvert-Lacroix of Sherbrooke, QC, was ninth (35.04), while William Dutton of Humboldt, SK, saw his streak of consecutive podium finishes end at four, as he was 19th (35.20).
Alexandre St-Jean wins first career medal
For Alexandre St-Jean, the silver medal is his first-ever in an individual event, as he is taking part in his fifth career World Cup Long Track this weekend.
St-Jean said he was surprised to end up on the podium after skating in the fifth of 10 pairings.
“I knew my time was good, but I had some serious doubts that it would hold for five more pairings,” said St-Jean. “Especially when you consider this was my first time skating here, in Inzell. I had nothing to compare it with. But each time a pairing finished skating, I became a little more tense because my chances of staying on the podium were increasing.
“I'm really surprised, but I'm mostly happy because I was beaten by another Canadian and the gap between the times was close. Even if Pavel Kulizhnikov had raced, I would have finished third, and that's good news for me.”
Heather McLean fourth in the women's 500m
On the women's side, Heather McLean of Winnipeg, MB, posted her best career result by finishing fourth in the first of two 500m races slated for the weekend.
The 22-year-old athlete skated to a time of 38.01, only two hundredths of a second behind American skater Heather Richardson-Bergsma (37.99), who was third. South Korea's Sang-Hwa Lee, who holds the world record in the distance, won gold (37.33), followed by Brittany Bowe of the United States (37.70), who was second.
“My race went according to plan, I executed what I set out to do technically,” said McLean. “In my next race, I hope to do the same thing, but just a little bit faster. I didn't expect to be so close to the podium, but I am confident that if I keep improving every race, I can get there.”
Christine Nesbitt is the last Canadian skater to step on the podium at a women's 500m race. In March of 2012, she won bronze at the World Cup Final held in Berlin, Germany.
In the women's 3000m, Ottawa skaters Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann respectively finished ninth (4:09.48) and 14th (4:11.99).
In the men's team pursuit, Canada had to forfeit the race following a fall by one of its skaters during the warm-up, which led to Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary suffering a cut to his leg.
TODAY’S CANADIAN RESULTS
500m (1) M - A
GOLD: Gilmore Junio: 34.86
SILVER: Alexandre St-Jean: 34.90
4: Laurent Dubreuil: 34.972
9: Alex Boisvert-Lacroix: 35.04
19: William Dutton: 35.20
500m (1) W - A
4: Heather McLean: 38.01
13: Marsha Hudey: 38.62
17: Kaylin Irvine: 38.84
3000m W - A
9: Ivanie Blondin: 4:09.48
14: Isabelle Weidemann: 4:11.99
3000m W - B
9: Josie Spence: 4:11.72
500m (1) W - B
9: Kali Christ: 39.31
More information is available at Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.