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Dandjinou strikes gold at World Cup short track speedskating stop in Montreal

William Dandjinou William Dandjinou - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — The future of Canadian short track speedskating appears to be in good hands as William Dandjinou, Jordan Pierre-Gilles and Rikki Doak secured their first individual gold medals at an ISU World Cup event Saturday at the Maurice Richard Arena.

Danaé Blais added a bronze in the 1,500 metres, stepping onto a World Cup podium for the first time.

After winning his first individual medal in the 1,000 race last week, Dandjinou skated to gold in the 1,500.

The Montreal native, who won bronze last week, jumped out to a quick lead and was never caught, finishing in two minutes 21.78 seconds to claim his first World Cup victory.

"It's incredible," said Dandjinou. "It's in front of my family and the Montreal crowd, I won against exceptional skaters I watched growing up — it's an amazing feeling. I don't think I've realized it yet, we'll let the dust settle, but there are more races [on Sunday]."

South Korea's Daeheon Hwang claimed silver in a time of 2:21.809 while teammate Gun Woo Kim took bronze in 2:21.918.

The 22-year-old Dandjinou had qualified for the final round with a late pass in the semifinals at the expense of his compatriot Pascal Dion, who was relegated to the B final as a result.

In the B final, Dion finished in fifth place.

Pierre-Gilles, of Sherbooke, Que., added to Canada’s medal haul with a gold in the 500 final in a time of 40.349.

"It couldn't be better than this. In front of my family and friends … I've lost my voice; that shows it," said Pierre-Gilles. "It was incredible. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, working hard for it. Experiencing it here in front of my people is an incomparable feeling."

Steven Dubois was leading the race when Chinese skater Liu Shaoang caught up with him, but both skaters fell to end their medal hopes. Chinese skaters Liu Shaolin and Lin Xiaojun took advantage and reached the podium.

"I know that when you reach the final, everyone wants to win, and to win, you have to take risks," said Pierre-Gilles. "I knew there were good chances of contact. I tried to create a little space to prevent others from coming too quickly and then to arrive with a lot of speed in case of a collision. It really happened as I had imagined."

Canadian women regain composure

Canada's female skaters didn’t win any individual medals last week. But Doak, of Fredericton, and Blais, of Châteauguay, Que., made sure history didn't repeat itself by winning gold in the 500 and bronze in the 1,500, respectively.

In both cases, the Canadian skaters benefited from penalties given to their competitors to improve their positions.

Doak initially finished in second place, but Dutch skater Xandra Velzeboer, who thought she had won, was penalized and disqualified. Dutch skater Selma Poutsma and Italian skater Martina Valcepina also received medals.

Doak had finished third in this distance twice before in the World Cup. Last week, she narrowly missed the podium.

In the 1,500, Blais (2:34.951), Courtney Sarault (2:35.352), and Claudia Gagnon (2:35.852) initially crossed the finish line in fourth, fifth, and sixth places before officials issued penalties. Belgian skater Hanne Desmet, who had initially won the race, received a yellow card and slid to last place.

This marks Blais' first individual medal in the World Cup. South Korean skater Gilli Kim (2:34.558) and American skater Kristen Santos-Griswold (2:34.829) finished ahead of her.

At the end of the day, the Canadian women easily won their 3,000 relay semifinal. The men also advanced to the final by finishing second in the semifinal.

The event will continue on Sunday with the second 1,500, the 1,000 and the relay finals. The Four Continents Championship will follow next week at Place Bell in Laval, Que.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2023.