DORDRECHT, Netherlands, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- Canada's skaters laid down a significant marker on day one of the Audi ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating event in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, showing the watching world that the home nation will not have it all their own way at the looming PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
A haul of two golds, two silvers and a bronze medal was a fine return for the Canadian team, particularly after South Korea had swept all but one gold in the season-opening event in Budapest last weekend.
The evergreen Marianne St-Gelais led the way with a stunning display in the women's 500m. The 27-year-old, aiming to compete in her third Olympic Games next year, flew round the rink bringing home compatriot Kim Boutin in the silver medal position, with Italy's Martina Valcepina in third. For St-Gelais, it was the ideal preparation for a goal that consumes her every waking hour.
"You have to think about PyeongChang 2018 every move, every step is for the Games," she said. "We don't have many races left against our opponents, so when you have the shot, you have to take it."
With woman-of-the-moment, Choi Min Jeong of South Korea - four-time gold medallist last weekend - missing out on the final after picking up a penalty in her semifinal, and overall 2017 ISU world champion Elise Christie of Britain also absent due to a recurring thigh injury, St-Gelais was free to stamp her authority on the sprint event.
"Honestly, I like having the Games in mind. I wake up every morning knowing it is my last shot. I am getting old," she added with a glint in her eye. "It doesn't stress me, it gives me wings. I don't want any regrets."
Compatriot Samuel Girard was equally relieved to park his lingering regrets as he stormed to 500m gold in the men's final. The 2016 ISU World Championship overall bronze medallist was penalized in the first men's final of the day, the 1,500m. A decision he was phlegmatic, if disappointed about.
"It was the referee's call. I can't change it, it is part of the game," Girard said. Perhaps fuelled by a certain sense of injustice, the Canadian was in total control of the 500m from the gun.
"It was good, I really controlled the pace from the start, it was the perfect execution of my strategy," he said.
The 2017 ISU 500m world champion, Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands, sent the Dutch crowd wild with a huge last lap propelling him into the silver medal position by the tightest of margins. After a photo-finish, the Dutchman took the fans' acclaim, finishing 0.004 seconds ahead of Hwang Dae Heon of South Korea.
"It's amazing to skate in front of such a crowd, it gives me a little bit extra," Knegt said with a smile.
Hwang had already enjoyed the top of the podium, with a powerful closing two laps to claim victory in the men's 1,500m final. After finishing second twice in Budapest, it was an important step for another of the South Korea's outstanding talents.
In contrast, Hungary's Shaolin Sandor Liu was delighted to take silver, his performance representing a considerable step up from what he produced in Budapest.
With 32 PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games qualification places up for grabs during the four-event 2017 Audi ISU World Cup Short Track series, Liu knows every race is vital.
Canadian veteran Charles Hamelin continued to defy his 33 years, sealing third place in the men's 1,500m.