The faster the race, the harder the falls

There was tension in the air and dozens of spills across the ice as skaters jockeyed for top positions in the 500-metre melee known as short-track…

There was tension in the air and dozens of spills across the ice as skaters jockeyed for top positions in the 500-metre melee known as short-track speed skating.

Yukon athlete Troy Henry likens the event to the Indy 500.

Sometimes skaters snag a blade or get edged out by another competitor and go careening into the boards, just like a race car might blow a tire or be run off the track by another vehicle.

“I’m a little worn out,” said Henry after coming off the ice from his final skate on Monday evening.

Everybody is pushing it to the limit and exceeding their comfort zone — that’s where the falls happen, said Henry.

“It’s very fast; there’s no real strategy involved,” he said of the four-and-a-half lap race.

“It’s basically: go hard and turn left.”

As officials prepared the ice for the men’s medal round, some athletes began trash talking from the stands.

“Ten dollars says Ontario wins this race, any takers?” one red-suited athlete yelled, while eying the team Manitoba and Quebec skaters nearby.

Had the gambler sealed the deal on the bet, he would have lost his money.

Although Ontario’s Nicolas Beam earned the bronze, Quebec skaters Guillaume Blais-Dufour and Vincent Andre took gold and silver respectively.

Henry finished 30th, while Yukon skater Jesse Reams ended 42th, and Alexander deBruyn a few steps behind at 45.

Quebec also took top spot in the women’s finals, finishing with gold, sliver and bronze medals for Marianne St-Gelais, Valerie Lambert and Valerie Maltais.

Yukon skater Melanie Tait finished 42, while Tara MacKinnon placed 36.

Tuesday was a practice day for the sport.

On Wednesday, skaters are scheduled to run the 1,000-metre, and on Thursday they’ll tackle the 3,000.

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