Heroic bronze for relay men at World Championships
Britain won bronze in the menís 5000m relay on the final day of the ISU World Championships in Montreal yesterday. The quartet of Jack Whelbourne, Richard Shoebridge, Jon Eley and Paul Stanley were beaten by the Netherlands and Korea in a dramatic photo finish and become the first British men to win a World Championship relay medal since 2008.
The team were lying in contention in fourth place with one lap to go, but a defiant final surge from Whelbourne on the final bend saw him overtake all three skaters. It was only a nudge in the final few metres that saw Whelbourne topple over and slide across the line that cost them a position higher up the podium.
Jack Whelbourne said: ďI tried my hardest on that last bend and I thought I had the gold. I went past all three of them in the last quarter of a lap, but there was a bit of argy-bargy and I went down. But Iím pretty happy to finish the season on the podium, especially after a bit of back luck in my individual events here. We definitely showed everyone that we are one of the best teams in the world.Ē
The team failed to qualify for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games after not finishing in the top eight at the two Olympic qualifying events. Richard Shoebridge, who competed in Sochi as an individual, said:
ďItís a great feeling to come here and win a medal after missing out on competing in the relay at the Olympics. We came back from that disappointment and proved a point here today. I couldnít be happier with my performance this week. Iíve had three top 20 finishes against an incredibly tough field and skated a lifetime best, so a medal in the relay is the cherry on top.Ē
Paul Stanley (30), who missed selection for Team GB for Sochi 2014, was part of British team that won the last relay bronze at the 2008 World Championships in South Korea. Stanley said:
ďItís a good finish to what has been a difficult season for me personally. It was a really exciting race, on my last hand off I think I got us back into third place and everyone was going for gold on the line, it was so close. Jack skated amazingly and even though we were so close to winning, Iím really happy with a bronze after everything thatís happened this season.Ē
Elise Christie came tantalisingly close to another medal in the 1000m and overall classification. Christie was seen to be impeded by race leader Shim Suk Hee (KOR) which compromised her speed and cost her a shot at her second medal. The South Korean duo Park Seung-Hi and Shim Suk Hee took gold and silver respectively, while Valerie Maltais of Canada edged out Christie for bronze on the line.
After qualifying for the 3000m super-final in 3rd place, Christie finished in seventh and was bumped into fourth place on the overall rankings again by Valera Maltais. Performance Director Stuart Horsepool commented:
ďElise has been unlucky yet again with the judges call and it cost her what could have been her second medal of the championships. She along with the whole team however has skated superbly all throughout the competition. The relay performance was spectacular, Jack in particular. They have all done so well here and it is a truly brilliant way to end the season.Ē
In the menís individual 1000m, it was third time unlucky for Jack Whelbourne who after winning his heat crashed out at the quarterfinal stage. Richard Shoebridge finished second in his heat behind the 1500m Olympic champion Charles Hamelin (CAN) and also exited the competition at the quarterfinal stage after crossing the line in fourth place, putting him in a creditable 13th place overall.
Charlotte Gilmartin did not to make it out of the heats of the 1000m, her least preferred distance, after contact with Agne Sereikaite (LTU) cost Gilmartin her speed going into the final bend. She finished in 23rd place.