By Huang Shan
China.org.cn staff reporter in Harbin
Stephen Gough, coach of Canadian short track speed skating team
"I'm very happy about the competition today. The Chinese and Korean teams are very strong," said Stephen Gough, coach of Canadian short track speed skating team, after the last day of this event at the 24th Winter Universiade in northeast China's Harbin.
"We had races with these two teams in the first round of qualification, and only two skaters could go into the quarterfinals. My racers had to perform very well right away and they might have been tired in the finals and the relay," said he. "But they did a good job. To have three (skaters) in the semifinals (of the men's 1000 meters) and to have won our first individual race medals is very good."
The coach rated the two Asian teams highly as the two countries shared the ten golds in this event, with five for each country.
"The Chinese and the Koreans are very smart. They manage their races well. They can skate four races and still be strong enough to win the medals," said Gough.
The competition is not of the highest level, with some top skaters missing, but the coach regarded it as a good opportunity for his team to practice.
"Our racers are quite young. It's the first big competition for many of them," said he. "The multi-sports environment is very good for them as China and Korea both sent excellent skaters."
Canada has National Games every four years, but age limits mean that not all athletes can participate. "We always make sure that we send a team to the Universiade every two years. It's good practice and experience for the Olympics."
The Canadian team took part in competitions in Harbin last year, which might give them an edge over rivals who have traveled a long way to China.
"We had two competitions here last year. We stayed two weeks and had a chance to walk around last time. For many of the skaters it's their second time to Harbin - they are familiar with the environment and don't have the problem of time difference," said the coach.
Canada won two silver medals in short track speed skating events - the men's 1000 meters and 5000 meters relay. Undoubtedly, they will be looking for better results at next year's Vancouver Winter Olympics.
"Canada has hosted two Olympics – 1976 in Montreal and 1988 in Calgary - but we did not take a gold medal at either of the two Games. We're the only host not to have a gold medal," said Gough.
Canada will select preliminary squads for the Winter Olympics in August, and some of the skaters attending the Universiade will probably qualify to compete in Vancouver. "I think Canada will win gold medals next year in many sports, in the same way as China put up a great show in Beijing."
(China.org.cn February 24, 2009)