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Kim Boutin leads Canadian gold-medal haul at short track World Cup stop in Kazakhstan

Canadian short track speed skaters won a total of five medals — three of which were gold — on Sunday at the World Cup event in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It was an especially successful day of competition for Kim Boutin, who collected twice.

The Sherbrooke, Que., native defeated Dutch star Suzanne Schulting in the women’s 500-metre final, finishing in 43.020 seconds for her second triumph of the season. Schulting crossed the line in 43.115 for silver.

“I am very proud of my races today,” Boutin told Speed Skating Canada. “We had to restart the 500 after a fall in the opening corner and I had to change my left blade because it made contact with Suzanne’s [Schulting].

“I told myself during the short break that I had to take off from the line even quicker to avoid getting our blades tangled up again. That strategy gave me the boost that I needed to win the race.”

Kristen Santos-Griswold of the U.S. (43.254) rounded out the podium in bronze-medal position, while Canadian Rikki Doak  (43.576) was fifth.

Boutin then joined Doak, Claudia Gagnon and Courtney Sarault to capture women’s relay gold after a pair of silver to begin the season. The Canadians skated to a time of 4:10.479, ahead of Schulting and the silver medallist Dutch team (4:16.038), while South Korea took bronze (4:22.605) after a lengthy video review following a collision between the Koreans and Netherlands.

The Canadian women led Sunday’s 27-lap race from start to finish, fending off the Netherlands, Korea and China on the way to their first victory in the distance since December 2019 in Shanghai.

“We are such a versatile relay team,” Boutin said, “and each skater made an important contribution to this gold medal. I am extremely proud because we had some difficult moments last season, but our objectives, ambitions and hearts are all aligned with the common goal of bringing this team back to the top where it belongs.”

The men’s team of Steven Dubois, Maxime Laoun, Jordan Pierre-Gilles and Felix Roussel ended first in a time of 6:56.201, ahead of World Cup season leaders Korea (6:56.453). Japan team rounded out the podium, taking bronze in 6:57.289.

Pierre-Gilles made an incredible inside pass on the Koreans in the entry of the final corner to secure a second consecutive victory for the Canadians after last month’s win in Salt Lake City. 

“I followed my instincts during that final pass,” he said. “I knew the guys really wanted gold today, so I didn’t hesitate and went all in.”

The Sherbrooke native looked to be setting up an outside pass in the final straight, but quickly moved to the inside before entering the corner, surprising the Korean who was looking the opposite way.

Sarault and Pascal Dion also added individual silver and bronze medals, respectively, in the 1,500 finals on Sunday. It was each skater’s second individual medal of the weekend after Sarault took gold in the women’s 1,000 and Dion took silver in the men’s 1,000.

Sarault, from Moncton, N.B., held the lead with two laps left but was passed by Hanne Desmet of Belgium and couldn’t regain the top spot, crossing the finish line in 2:26.752.

Dion, who hails from Montreal, made an outside pass on teammate William Dandjinou in the final corner to claim bronze in 2:20.545.

World Cup action continues next weekend with the second consecutive competition in Almaty, where Canada will look to add to its impressive 20 medals.

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