Beijing Olympics: Short-distance speed skating and how Quebec goes around the rest of Canada
There’s no denying it, Quebec is the real powerhouse in Canada when it comes to short distances speed skating.
Out of 10 Canadians competing in short distance events at Beijing Olympics 2022nine hailstorms from La Belle province.
Canada’s leading team are Olympic veterans Charles Hamelin, whose Winter Olympics hardware includes three gold, one silver and one bronze; Kim Boutin, who won the only three medals in Pyeonchang in 2018; and Pascal Dion, who holds the 2021 World Cup title at 1,000 metres.
The final round of the team from Quebec was Olympic rookies Steven Dubois, Maxime Laoun, Jordan Pierre-Gilles, Danaé Blais, Florence Brunelle and Alyson Charles. Courtney Sarault from Moncton, NB, is the other member of the group.
With five medals to his name, Hamelin, 37, from Sainte-Julie, Que., ranks as Canada’s most decorated male Winter Olympic athlete.
It’s an honor he shares with fellow speed skaters Marc Gagnon and François-Louis Tremblay – both retired and both from Quebec.
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Robert Dubreuil, general manager of the Quebec speed skating federation, said a number of factors explain the province’s dominance of the sport in Canada.
“We have 50 clubs, so we have a good competitor base among those 6,000+ members,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ontario and BC have an average of about 25 clubs each with a membership of less than 3,000 skaters.
“So you see the difference, both together, they’re not even completely Quebec,” Dubreuil said. “By getting those numbers, we have bigger competitions and a bigger circuit. ”
It also allows the establishment of regional training centers, again increasing the chances of training high-level athletes.
It then becomes a self-sustaining circle, according to Dubreuil.
“When you have results, you will be of interest to more people,” he said.
And while he doesn’t pretend to be an expert on socio-cultural issues – Dubreuil has come up with the idea that the short run might just be a more appealing sport for Quebe Cancers.
“I would say it might be more suited to Latino blood,” he said. “You know, it’s a show, a short. It gives you many emotions, many actions. It’s quick. It may be closer to the Latin culture of the Quebeaches at some point.“
Whatever the reason, Quebec’s dominance over the sport is nothing new.
Since becoming an official Olympic sport at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, only 10 athletes from outside Quebec have earned a spot on Team Canada.
In 30 short years, the short track has become one of the country’s most successful Olympic winter sports with a total of 33 medals. It ranks second behind its cousin, speed skating. long distance, with 37 medals.
Dubreuil recalls a time when Quebec also dominated ovals for a long time. Anyone old enough will remember Gaétan Boucher skating to victory, not once but twice in Sarajevo in 1984.
Of the 16 athletes who competed in the long distance at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, 13 were from Quebec according to Dubreuil.
By the time the next Olympics came around, that number had dropped to two out of nine. Dubreuil believes the appearance of an ice-covered oval in Calgary in 1987 had a lot to do with the drop.
In Quebec, athletes are training on an outdoor oval.
“What that means with the weather, we only skate for four months instead of being able to skate all year,” says Dubreuil, adding that the quality of the ice is also an issue.
The short path does not have the same limitations.
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However, a brand new training center in Quebec City, with indoor facilities for both long and short distances, could lead to a resurgence of long-distance skaters from the province.
That is one of the goals of the federation, Dubreuil said.
“You know we’re probably at 20% now, but we’re confident in the long run with the short-haul foundation we have, that we can get back to 50% for the long-term without jeopardizing it. for our short distance,” he said. “We believe we have enough talent and enough skaters. ”
However, the ultimate goal of the federation is to see the sport grow, and not just in Quebec.
“Even if we are dominant in the short run, we will always support the other provinces,” said Dubreuil. “To be considered a great sport… you need competition.”
“The worst case scenario is to dominate so much that your sport is not taken seriously anymore.”
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8584011/beijing-olympics-short-track-speedskating-quebec-athletes/ Beijing Olympics: Short-distance speed skating and how Quebec goes around the rest of Canada