I say finally because I spent a big part of my career as a skater asking myself why European skaters had their own European Championships, while us Canadians had… nothing. We always had to put together competitions and invite the other countries ourselves to get the opportunity to experience high-level racing with other nations outside of the world cups and the world championships. And when we were indeed able to work out something, we would often have to settle for the B teams of the countries we had invited, because their A team members had better things to do than to cross the ocean and try to win chocolate medals…
But I admit I was a kind of jealous. Some skaters I had beaten each time out now had the luxury of hearing their name at the start line with remarks such as : “In 4th position at the starting line, the reigning European champion…”Of course, the titles hold some shine and prestige, but don’t forget the purses ! They had pretty interesting purses, these lucky Europeans. Here they had an event that was sanctioned by the ISU and the purses, if my memory doesn’t fail me for once, were comparable to those seen at the worlds. To earn the same purse, us poor Canadians, we had to qualify all the way to the big finals at the worlds alongside the Chinese, the Koreans, the Americans… and Europeans too ! When misery takes a hold of you…
(*** let me clarify something for those who love money (raise your hand if you do!) : to accumulate a jackpot that compares to what the winner of the Rogers Cup makes, for instance, a speed skater would gave to win close to 100 times at the worlds, and even then… There you go, now you have a way of comparing. Welcome to the world of Oiympic sports, which we see on TV once every four years.)
Of course, I’m overstating things, but the fact remains that I’ve often times been under the impression that we have a double stantard. Why them and not us ? After all, the Koreans, the Chinese and the Japanese had their Asian Games. With the number of champions we’ve produced over the years, didn’t we have the right to take part in our very own high-calibre championship ? But opportunities to compete at the highest level were fewer and far between for Canadians and Americans.
So. Putting jealousy aside, this is now a bygone era because the all-new Four Continents Championships are now a reality, and good for us, it will take place in Montreal in January. For those interested, fans, fanatics and companions of fans and fanatics, don’t book anything else for the weekend of January 10-12.
In a nutshell, what is a 4 Continents Championship ? A competition that features the best short track speed skaters in the world with the exception of those from Europe, who already have their own competition, the European Championships. This competition is a extraordinary opportunity to pratice winning in a environment where the pressure is high and can have an impact on the outcome of the races. It is one more tool that one can use to groom oneself to perform at the next Olympics. But above all, there are prestigious championship titles that are up for grabs. Korean skaters Hwang Dae-Heon and Choi Min Jeong, who are like runaway trains on blades, will not go down easily. These championships has never been won. A lot of skaters have their eyes set on this all-new championship cup, and rightfully so.
On the Canadian team, watch out for skaters like Kim Boutin and Courney Sarault on the women’s side as well as Steven Dubois and Charles Hamelin on the men’s squad. Our chances are great if we can judge by Boutin’s performances, who has ended up on the podium every time out since the start of the World Cup season. As for the men, the medals haven’t come as often, but Dubois has done well in the 1000m and he regularly qualifies for A finals. And there’s nothing like skating in front of a home crowd to get the fire going under those skates.
It should be noted that the ISU (International Skating Union) approved these championships under one condition : that they be held in Montreal and nowhere else. A sign that Montreal is now considered one of the hottest spots in the world for short track. In fact, it’s THE hottest spot if you ask me.
Fans of the 4 Continents, please raise your hand !
Schedule or info, www.courtepiste.ca
Short track speed skater who has been retired since 2013. He participated in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games. He is the most decorated man in the history of the Winter Games, tied with Charles Hamelin and Marc Gagnon with 5 medals.