Marianne St-Gelais received a wonderful 20th birthday gift on Wednesday as she won the silver medal in the 500m short-track speed skating finals at the Pacific Coliseum.
The Quebec native couldn’t have asked for a better present as she won her first medal at her first Olympics, contributing Canada’s sixth medal at the Whistler Games.
“It’s a wonderful birthday present,” said St-Gelais to CTV Sports. “It’s touched me very much.”
The birthday girl finished in a time of 43.707 seconds as she battled the last half of the race with Italy’s Arianna Fontana, who took the bronze medal.
The Olympic rookie wasn’t expected to be a contender until the 2014 Winter Games in Russia, but proved that she was ready to blossom earlier than projected.
“I think I started believing at the 2006 World Cup and saw that I had potential to compete,” she said.
“I knew it was possible, but with short track, you never know what’s going to happen. I’m just so happy.”
Wang Meng of China won the race, crossing the line in 43.048 seconds and becoming the back-to-back Olympic champion.
Edmonton’s Jessica Gregg just missed the podium placing fourth, as she failed to get a good start and couldn’t catch up to the rest of the pack.
“Going through these races, I think the medals are in everyone’s heads,” Gregg told the Vancouver Sun. “But coming fourth, I should be happy with that. And I am.”
Kalyna Roberge of St. Etienne de Lauzon, Que., who was favoured to perform the best out of the Canadians, surprisingly failed to qualify for the finals and placed second in the B Final.
Roberge came into the Olympics ranked second in the world and was very upset that she had such a disappointing performance and will now travel home empty-handed.
“I guess it’s not my role to win a medal this year,” a tearful Roberge said.
Fortunately, Roberge still has one more chance to win a medal at the Winter Games as the Canadian ladies’ 3000m-relay team plan to compete in the medal race.
The final is scheduled for February 24 at 9:26 p.m. ET.