The world's short track speed skaters were back on the ice this weekend for the second round of the 2011-12 Korean Air ISU World Cup Short Track circuit at the George Vezina Centre, in Saguenay, Canada. The World Cup circuit last stopped in Saguenay five years ago.
22 countries participated in the action this weekend, with the United States noticeably absent. The team from Canada took advantage of skating on home ice, and earned a total of 11 medals. Korea took a total of 6 medals, while both China and Italy each earned 4 medals. Japan and Russia earned 2 medals each, and Great Britain earned one medal.
This weekend, the skaters competed over the 500m distance twice. The first ladies 500m Final was won by Canadian skater Marianne St-Gelais, while the second final was won by Italian skater Arianna Fontana. Second and third place finishers were the same in both races: Martina Valcepina (Italy) finished second, while Qiuhong Liu of China was third. The double podium result by Valcepina allows her to take the lead for this distance in the World Cup rankings.
On the men's side, the 500m Finals were an all-Canadian affair, with 1-2 finishes in each of the events. Olivier Jean took the win in the first race, with Charles Hamelin finishing second. Russian skater Vladimir Grigorev was third. In the second final, Francois-Louis Tremblay won the race, with teammate Guillaume Bastille taking second. Third place finish went to Wenhao Liang of China. Jon Eley of Great Britain maintains his lead in the World Cup rankings for this distance, despite being shut out from the podium in both races.
In the ladies 1500m Final, Fontana took her second win of the weekend, finishing ahead of a Korean duo. Eun-Byul Lee was second, while teammate Ha-Ri Cho was third. With the absence of World Cup leader Reutter (USA), Lee's second place finish this weekend allows her to take the lead in the World Cup ranking for this distance. On the men's side, Jinkyu Noh of Korea took the win, allowing him to maintain his lead in the World Cup ranking for this distance. Second place finisher was Yoon-Gy Kwak of Korea, and third place finisher was Yuzo Takamido of Japan.
Cheered on by the local fans, the ladies and men's 1000m events allowed the Canadian skaters to shine. In the ladies final, Marianne St-Gelais took her second win of the weekend, with second place finish going to Elise Christie of Great Britain. Ha-Ri Cho (Korea) was third. On the men's side, it was an all Canadian podium: Charles Hamelin (first), Michael Gilday (second) and Olivier Jean (third). Yui Sakai (Japan) and Yoon-Gy Kwak (Korea) lead the World Cup standings in both the ladies and men's rankings respectively.
The weekend concluded with the Relay events. For a consecutive weekend, the ladies 3000m Relay Final was won by China. Canada finished second, while Japan earned a third place finish. In the men's 5000m relay event, the team from Korea took the win, ahead of Russia, who had a strong team performance in the event. Canada finished in third place.
The Korea Air ISU World Cup Short Track circuit takes a break for a few weeks, and resumes in early December in Nagoya, Japan, on December 2-4, 2011.