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Young Canadians fast at World Cup Trials

At the Canadian Fall World Cup Team Selections in Calgary last month, familiar names like Cindy Klassen and Denny Morrison ruled in the middle distances. In the 500m however, the world was in for a few surprises. In the women’s 500m, Anastasia Bucsis (22) claimed victory in both heats, whereas on the men’s side Gilmore Junio (21) skated to a season’s best time in his second 500m. And they both did so in some huge personal bests. Meet Bucsis and Junio, as they look back on that amazing weekend in October and look forward to the Fall World Cups, that are about to kick off this weekend in Chelyabinsk.

By Jolanda Abbes

Anastasia Bucsis looks back on some impressive races at the Canadian Fall World Cup Team Selections. On the first day of competition, she raced to a second place in the 1000m in a race that was not even perfect. Still, she looks back pleased on her 1:17.28: “I'm really happy with how trials went. I went into every race with a specific race plan, and just tried to skate to the best of my ability. My 1000m had a few mistakes in it, but overall I was pretty happy with my skating. I couldn't control all of the circumstances within the race, but I technically skated well, so that's always an exciting feeling!”

On the men’s side, Gil Junio made quite an impression as well. He finished fourth in the 1000m, but even though he missed the podium by a couple of tenths of a second, he looks back on a good race, and brought his personal best time down from 1:09.58 to 1:09.41: “Fall Trials were great! I definitely surprised myself in the 1000m – my goal was to be the fastest at 600m and I did that, the last lap was definitely a little lacking but I utilized my strengths and I think that's why I did as well as I did.”

However, things were about to get even better for the both of them on the last day of competition, when they both competed in the 500m. Bucsis, who competed in the 500m at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, finished first in both heats in 38.32 and 37.92. And not only did she skate a sub 38 for the first time in her career, she did it with a huge personal best, which used to be 38.56. On top of that, her 37.92 ranks among the top 4 of this season’s fastest times thus far. Bucsis: “The 500m was really fun. I didn't over think anything; I forgot about results, about who I was skating against, about what people may be thinking... I just skated because I love to skate. I love speed skating, and so I went into the race with a simple plan, told myself that that was all that mattered, and enjoyed the process. The racing was really fun! Last year I didn't have a lot of great races, and I didn't have much fun. I put too much pressure on myself to perform, so I'm definitely not taking anything for granted! I'm just very blessed to even have this opportunity!”

Junio did not finish first in the first 500m he skated; his 35.27 was good for a second-place finish. His 34.78 in the second 500m, however, not only was the fastest time of the day and a big improvement of his old personal best time (which used to be 35.05), but it also is the fastest 500m of the season thus far. Junio: “In the 500m, I definitely felt like I was capable of skating some good times but it wasn't my immediate focus; I just wanted to skate well and keep to the things I had been working on during the weeks prior to the competition. The end results were great but I was more happy with how I was able to manage some of the pressure and skate and have fun.”

And now, with these good results under their belts as great confidence boosters, Bucsis and Junio are looking forward to the international season to begin, with the first World Cup this weekend in Chelyabinsk. Bucsis: “I am really looking forward to the Fall World Cups! I've never been to Russia or Kazakhstan, so I'm excited to travel and race on the circuit. It's always nice to see everyone again too! I'm just really blessed to be given such a great opportunity.” And Junio adds: “Looking forward I just want to keep doing what I have been doing and having fun with skating and my team. I don't so much have expectations for my results, rather I want to skate and get more experience skating on the big stage. I can't control any of the results so the best thing to do is enjoy it, have fun and take it all in.”

Photo credits: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen