Courtney Lee Sarault (CAN) and Alyson Charles (CAN) showed that the future of Canadian speed skating is a bright one after taking silver and bronze on their ISU Short Track World Cup debuts at the Calgary Olympic Oval.
Sarault’s potential has been known for a while in the skating world. Earlier this year, she won two gold medals and three silvers at the World Junior Short Track Championships in Poland, but few expected her to make the transition to senior level quite so seamlessly.
During Friday’s heats of the women’s 1500m, Sarault said she was so nervous that her “whole body felt numb”. But when it came to Saturday afternoon’s 1500m final, she made a mockery of her relative inexperience, finishing just 0.001 seconds behind Olympic 1000m champion Suzanne Schulting (NED) to take silver in an incredibly tight race.
“I thought I had her, but she just squeezed by,” said Sarault, after the race. “I’m always striving for the best, so I’m a little disappointed with how the ending turned out, but I really wasn’t expecting this yesterday. I was like, a centimetre away from a gold medal, and for my first World Cup, that’s really amazing. I need to work on my finish a little bit, and I’ll be set.”
Sarault said a change in mindset from the opening day, played a major role in her performance in the final. “Yesterday, nerves played a big role,” she said. “Today I just forgot about it and went into the races with a positive attitude. I wasn’t intimidated by the other girls. I know they’re Olympians and stuff, but I went in thinking, ‘I’m from Canada, my country’s strong, and I’ve worked hard to get here so I deserve a spot’.”
Suzanne Schulting (NED) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
For Schulting, victory in the first World Cup event of the season came as something of a relief. After winning a surprise Olympic gold at PyeongChang 2018, she now feels she has to prove she can win on a regular basis. “I was a little nervous before this competition because I want to show the world that I’m not only able to win gold at the Olympics, but I can do it at the World Cups, World Championships and Europeans,” she said.
“I had a kind of busy summer. Holland was exploding when I came home from Korea and I had so much attention. But I’ve been able to train well, and I did quite a good job with the tactics in the final here. It was a little tough at the end, and I was slightly worried I was going to get a penalty at first, but I was in the right positions at all times.”
In the women’s 500m (1) final, Natalia Maliszewska (POL) backed up her 500m silver medal at March’s World Short Track Championships, by winning gold, ahead of Yara van Kerkhof (NED) and Charles. But while Maliszewska was one of the pre-competition favourites, the performance of Charles came as a complete surprise, not least to the athlete herself.
“I was not expecting anything at the beginning of the day but as the rounds went on, I was feeling more confident about my potential,” said Charles (pictured above, far left). “After I won my semi, I really thought I could win something today. But it’s a bit surreal being here. It’s really surprised me that I’m able to compete with these girls. I’m over the moon.”
Van Kerkhof was visibly emotional after grabbing silver “It means a lot to have won this medal,” she said. “I was sitting in the heat box before the final thinking how cool would it be to win something.”