Canada sends 4 skaters into medal races on short track's final day
Valerie Maltais set Olympic record in previous 1,000m round
There will be medals handed out in three Olympic short track competitions Friday, events in which it's guaranteed there will not be repeat champions.
It will be a bit of a surreal situation for Canadian fans watching the races at Sochi's Iceberg Skating Palace, as Charles Hamelin, the country's biggest star in the sport, will essentially be a bit player.
Hamelin undoubtedly had visions of stepping to the line in a bid to repeat as the 500-metre Olympic champion, and as part of a second straight Canadian win in the 5,000-metre relay.
But he won't be in the 500 due to a fall he suffered in the qualification round earlier this week, and Canada's 5,000 team will be in the B final Friday after his brother Francois Hamelin fell in the first round of competition.
Canada instead will have four other skaters in contention for medals.
Olivier John and Charle Cournoyer are the contenders in the men's 500.
Jean, from Lachenaie, Que., has won a medal of every kind in the 500 at world championships over the span of his career.
Cournoyer, of Boucherville, Que., is the youngest member of the team. While his World Cup podium appearances have come at longer distances, he'll look to advance into the final rounds.
Valerie Maltais and Marie-Ève Drolet will be back competing in the women's 1,000-metre quarter-finals after winning silver earlier in the Sochi Games in the 3,000-metre relay.
Maltais set an Olympic record earlier this week in qualifying in the 1,000, in a time of one minute, 28.771 seconds.
The La Baie, Que., native took bronze at the distance at the 2012 world championships and very briefly held the world record time in the 1,000 later that year.
Drolet, of Chicoutimi, Que., is trying to fashion one of the more unique routes to the Olympic podium in what could conceivably be her last Winter Games competition. The 32-year-old took bronze as part of Canada's 2002 Olympic relay team, then retired for several years before an unsuccessful bid to make the Vancouver Games squad.
Maltais and Drolet both made it the B final in the 1,500, with Maltais winning the race.
Seung-Hi Park of South Korea, with bronze, is the only skater who made it to the Vancouver Olympics podium who is back in the mix this time.
Vancouver Games winner Wang Meng of China isn't in Sochi due to injury, while the silver medallist four years ago, Katherine Reutter, is retired.
None of the men's medallists from the Vancouver 500 are in contention.
The day's individual races start at 11:30 a.m. ET, streamed live on cbc.ca/olympics. The men's and women's competitions take place over a span of about 90 minutes, moving from quarters to semifinals and finals.
China, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Russia will go for gold in the men's relay. None of those countries has ever won Olympic gold in the men's 5,000.
Ironically, the three countries who have are all in the B final: Canada, Italy and South Korea.
Heading into the last day of competition, China, Italy, South Korea and Russia all have three medals, with Canada boasting Hamelin's 1,500-metre win and the women's relay silver.