Did you know that short track speed skating officially became an Olympic sport in 1992?
That was 68 years after speed skating made its Olympic debut at Chamonix 1924 with long track events for men.
Short track was on display at Calgary 1988 as a demonstration sport before making its official Olympic debut at Albertville 1992 with the women’s 500m and 3000m relay and the men’s 1000m and 5000m relay. At Lillehammer 1994, the men’s 500m and women’s 1000m were added but it wasn’t until Salt Lake City 2002 that the 1500m was also an event for both genders.
Read on and relive Team Canada’s Olympic highlights in short track speed skating through the years:
The first Olympic gold medal
It didn’t take long for Canada to win its first Olympic gold medal in short track. Leading up to Albertville 1992, Canada dominated the women’s 3000m relay, winning the last six world titles. Their closest challengers were expected to be China, but a crash in the semifinals took them out of contention.
Early in the final, a Japanese skater fell and then the Canadian quartet of Angela Cutrone, Sylvie Daigle, Nathalie Lambert, and Annie Perreault held off the United States in a tactical race to become Canada’s first Olympic champions in short track speed skating. At the same Games, Canada won two other medals: silver in the 1000m for Frédéric Blackburn and silver in the men’s 5000m relay (Blackburn, Laurent Daignault, Michel Daignault, Sylvain Gagnon and Mark Lackie).
Two Canadians on the podium
At Salt Lake City 2002, Gagnon was looking for redemption and was joined in the final by fellow Canadian Jonathan Guilmette.
At the start of the 4.5-lap race, Gagnon was second behind American Rusty Smith while Guilmette was fourth. On the last lap, Gagnon decided to pass at the perfect moment, going inside to take first position. Guilmette followed his teammate to the American’s surprise, as the Canadians won gold and silver. Just an hour later, both men were back on the ice, helping Canada to another gold in the 5000m relay.
Men’s relay team gets their revenge
At Turin 2006, the Canadian men’s relay team made up of Mathieu Turcotte, Eric Bédard, François-Louis Tremblay, Jonathan Guilmette, and Charles Hamelin won the semifinal to advance to the gold medal race. At the start of the final, the Canadian skaters took the lead over the Americans, but at halfway mark, the South Koreans took a lead that they kept for the rest of the race, breaking the Olympic record in the process. The Canadians finished second, a mere 0.04 seconds behind the winners.
Four years later, Hamelin and Tremblay were on the Vancouver 2010 team alongside Guillaume Bastille, Olivier Jean, and Francois Hamelin. After finishing second in their semifinal, the skaters had to give their all to be Olympic champions. In the middle of the final, Jean took the lead to overtake China and widened Canada’s lead for Charles Hamelin. Despite a near crash by Hamelin late in the race, Canada won gold ahead of South Korea and the United States.
Operation Cobra, conceived by Jean, is what allowed Team Canada to be so successful at Vancouver 2010. The strategy, developed two years before the Games, was to use the strengths of each skater to win the race, though it would only be possible if Canada was ahead in the last 20 laps. Tremblay played a key role as his job was to block out the opposing skaters, causing confusion for the other teams in the process. With a gold medal for Canada, we can say that it was mission accomplished!
Canada’s most decorated short track speed skaters
In the history of short track speed skating at the Olympics, three Canadian skaters stand at the top with five medals each.
Marc Gagnon won his first Olympic medal at Lillehammer 1994. He took bronze in the 1000m after winning the B final and a series of disqualifications in the A final. His individual races at Nagano 1998 were more difficult, but he still earned a gold medal in the men’s relay. Salt Lake City 2002 was a very prolific Olympic Games for the Canadian skater as he won gold in the 500m and men’s relay and bronze in the 1500m.
In his first Olympic Games at Salt Lake City 2002, François-Louis Tremblay was part of the Canadian men’s relay team that won gold. At Turin 2006, he claimed his first individual Olympic medal with silver in the 500m, then ended his second Games with another silver in the men’s relay. In his third and final Olympic Games in Vancouver, Tremblay finished in style with two more medals: bronze in the 500m and gold in the men’s relay.
Charles Hamelin is Canada’s most recent short track skater to win five Olympic medals. He won three medals in the men’s relay: silver at Turin 2006, gold at Vancouver 2010, and bronze at PyeongChang 2018 (with Charle Cournoyer, Pascal Dion, and Samuel Girard). He also has two individual gold medals to his name: the 500m in 2010 and the 1500m at Sochi 2014.