The next Winter Olympic Games will only take place in a little over two years, in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, but already, the next generation of Canadian short track speed skaters is starting to make their place on the international scene.
Three maple leaf skaters won their first World Cup event last weekend in Montreal. William Dandjinou (1500 meters), Jordan Pierre-Gilles (500 m) and Rikki Doak (500 m) all won gold.
Danaé Blais did not sign a victory, but she was nevertheless decorated with silver in the 1000 m and bronze in the 1500 m. In total, Canada collected six individual medals and a silver medal in the men’s 5,000m relay.
For Marc Schryburt, the high performance director (short track) at Speed Skating Canada, the future is full of promise.
“At the last Games, apart from Charles Hamelin and Kim Boutin, all the others were new,” he recalled. And there, we look at the group of skaters, and we risk finding roughly the same body of athletes in 2026. Things look good. »
Things are looking good, but one fact remains: almost three full seasons will be played between now and the next Olympics. The results of the Montreal stopover are therefore encouraging, but it is above all the way in which they were obtained that matters.
Starting with the attitude and dynamics within the team.
“There, we are picking up a good harvest with some new ones,” rejoiced head coach Sébastien Cros. This is exactly the kind of dynamic we want; it creates competition internally, it pushes everyone to do more, to do better, to have this spirit of performance. So, the dynamic that is taking place is perfect.
“It’s like a wheel: once everyone is on board and the results are on board, it creates a good dynamic. Afterwards, it’s up to us to keep that,” he added.
The young skaters of the Canadian team had to prove themselves at the junior level to obtain their place within the Canadian delegation participating in the stages of the World Cup. In a country with such a rich heritage in this sport and always at the forefront, this is not an easy thing. Their potential is therefore very present.
Last year, some won medals, but their state of mind on the ice was not always the right one. However, a change has been noticed since the start of the season.
“What I’m happy with is that this year, we’re racing to win,” Schryburt analyzed. Last year, some skaters were fearful, they wanted to (protect) their points and their positions. But there is nothing to lose: (you have to) run to win every time. »
Winning medals, but also qualifying waves, quarter-finals and semi-finals. As Schryburt likes to say, short track speed skating is a physical sport where falls and penalties are omnipresent, so the author of the best time over the distance is not always on the podium.
“What we look at is that we have to take as many skaters as possible to the semi-finals,” explained Schryburt. Then, the key is to take a lot of skaters to the A final. Last week, things were going very, very well, but in the semi-finals, everything fell apart. We had a lot of skaters in the B final. (Saturday), it was the opposite: we had a lot of skaters who advanced to the semi-finals. »
These advancements are at the heart of skaters’ strategy when they take to the icy rings in the four corners of the world. And if the season is still young, Cros says he is satisfied with what he sees from his protégés so far, even if the risks perhaps did not pay dividends during the first World Cup held at the Maurice-Richard arena two weeks ago.
“It’s always the same,” Cros said. We’re happy with the races, the attitude, the risk-taking – that’s always what we want to see. And this week, it paid off more than last week. Last week, we had to find our bearings. This time it turned out well, so that’s good. »
The table is therefore set for the Four Continents Championships, which will take place this weekend at Place Bell in Laval.