Canadian short-track speedskaters land spots on foreign teams

Canada may have won six medals at last weekend’s short-track speedskating World Cup, but Canadians actually won seven.

Travis Jayner of the United States competes in the men's 1500-metre event at the short track Speed Skating ISU World Cup in Montreal on Saturday. Canada might have won six medals at last weekend's short-track speedskating World Cup

MONTREAL — Canada may have won six medals at last weekend’s short-track speedskating World Cup, but Canadians actually won seven.

When Charles Hamelin captured the gold for Canada in the 1,500 metres on Saturday, lanky Travis Jayner was skating to the bronze in the two-tone blue colours of the United States.

Jayner is a dual citizen from Riverview, N.B., and is making a strong showing on the short-track circuit.

He’s one of a handful of Canadians in short-track speedskating who will be competing for other teams at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Ottawa’s Nicolas Bean (pronounced Bay-An) is on the Italian national team and Brampton, Ont.’s Tyson Heung is skating for Germany.

Jayner, a friendly 27-year-old who is still trying to finish a degree in urban planning at Montreal’s Concordia University, has been on the U.S. national team for more than six years.

This will be his first Olympics, and he says he doesn’t ever feel conflicted about his dual nationality while on the ice.

“It’s a lot of fun to race the Canadians because they’re great speedskaters as well along with my team,” said Jayner, who is now based with the team in Salt Lake City.

“Racing those top guys, that’s probably the most fun you can have in short-track, when the best guys from the best countries are racing head-to-head.”

Jayner works closely with Canadians Guy Thibault, the U.S. team’s high performance director, and assistant coach Laurent (Larry) Daignault.

A common thread with the skaters who left to don another country’s colours is the sense that they didn’t see an Olympic future for themselves in Canada where there is so much short-track depth.

Heung skated with the Canadian national team from 2000 to 2003, but then switched to the German team right before the 2006 Games in Turin.

“When I first was thinking of switching over, I thought, ’What are my friends going to think, my other Canadian team members?’ But it was so well accepted,” said Heung, whose former Canadian teammate Eric Bedard is now coaching the German team.

“There’s so much depth in Canada, it’s really difficult to make the team.”

For 30-year-old Heung, this Olympic Games will be his last kick at international competition. Still, the Montreal schoolteacher is still clocking respectable times for his age in the sport — coming in 11th in the 1,000 metres.

Last week at the Maurice Richard Arena, Bean stood out as he sat in the stands with the rest of the Canadian fans during breaks wearing his Italian team jacket.

Bean helped put the Italian team on the map during the meet, ranking 11th in the 1,500 metres and 19th in the 1,000 metres. He also helped Italy skate to fifth-place in the men’s relay.

Bean said he experienced profound culture shock when he relocated to a small alpine town last year, with no Italian under his belt.

“It’s passionate, people like speedskating,” Bean said of his grandfather’s homeland. “But almost all the speedskaters come from one small town in the Alps. It’s kind of strange that way because it’s not like here, where we have 10 clubs in Montreal and they might have 10 in the whole country.”

Jayner, Heung and Bean will compete in another World Cup this weekend in Marquette, Mich. The results from the two meets this month will help determine who will skate in the Vancouver Games.

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