News and background stories

Gilmore Junio successful at Fall World Cups

It is only his second season on the World Cup circuit as a long track speed skater, but already Gilmore Junio has consistently found his way into the top 10 in the 500m. After racing to some good results at the Canadian Fall World Cup Team Selections last October, including impressive personal bests in the 500m and the 1000m, Junio continued to show his good form in Chelyabinsk, Astana and Heerenveen, where the first three World Cups of the season took place. His best results so far include a 6th-place finish in Astana and a 7th-place finish in Heerenveen. Back home in Calgary, Junio reflects on the first weeks of competition, the Team Sprint and racing against Stefan Groothuis.

By Jolanda Abbes

This is your second season on the World Cup circuit, how do you compare this season to last season so far?
“I think this time around I'm a lot more confident in my ability to skate. Last year, not only was it my first time doing World Cups but I was still relatively new to the sport coming from short track. But I think I've come a long way since then and I think it has showed in some of my results.”

The first two World Cups of the season took place in Chelyabinsk and Astana, for the first time. How did you enjoy these two cities?
“I really enjoyed both Chelyabinsk and Astana – I think each city brought something that I really liked. Chelyabinsk had the awesome crowd and Astana had the amazing oval. Not to say either lacked in those departments, but those two things really stood out for me at those places. But I'm a pretty picky eater so neither of those places really had something I was crazy for so on our last night in Chelyabinsk, Lucas Makowsky, Jordan Belchos and some of the Czech guys walked around for a good 30-45 minutes, in the Russian cold, looking for a McDonald’s. I know it might not be your typical world-class athlete meal but after a week of struggling to find food in the buffet line other than Cocoa Puffs, it was definitely something that I needed.”

How do you look back on your 500m’s at the Fall World Cups?
“I think the one word I can use to describe my races is ‘consistent’. I consistently opened 9.7 and got to the point where the final times in my last four races were all the same or one-hundredth off that. I think my races in Chelyabinsk really set the tone for the rest of the trip – I got some of the nerves out on the first races and finishing in the top 10 really boosted my confidence moving forward. In Astana I kind of let myself down in the first race and made a big mistake heading into the last turn, but I think I bounced back the next day and put together a solid race that put me in 6th and pretty close to a podium finish. Coming off that in Heerenveen I just wanted to end on a good note and both races were good but not great, but with two more top 10’s I can't complain too much.”

How do you look back on your 500m against Stefan Groothuis in Heerenveen, whom you beat in front of his home crowd?
“I was a little nervous for sure because I knew with him performing so well in that distance a lot of eyes were going to be on that pair and there definitely was some pressure on me to perform. But I think the lead up to the race was really fun – to be there when they announced his name and hear the crowd roar was pretty unreal. I watched that race over on TV and with our skin suits being black and red I really looked like the villain there to spoil the party and to an extent that's kind of what I wanted to do.”

How do you look back on your 1000m’s at the Fall World Cups?
“I think my 1000m's showed I still have a lot to learn. It is something that I've been really trying to work on lately, so hopefully it pays off soon.”

How do you look back on the Team Sprint in Heerenveen, in which your team finished 3rd?
“I think it is a great event; it's nice to have an event catered to the sprinters. Obviously with it only being a demonstration event, our team didn't have a lot of practice but I think we did a pretty good job. There was a lot of talk after the race to what we could have done better but for a first time I don't think we could've asked for much better. Our team had a lot of fun with it, so I hope that in the near future it will be a real event because I think it's pretty exciting to watch.”

Did you train specifically for the Team Sprint?
“With it only being a demonstration event we didn't really put too much thought into it, as we each had our own races to focus on, so literally our race was our first start all together going 100%.”

How do you look forward to the Canadian Single Distances Championships, and the rest of the season? What will be your goals?
“I obviously want to get back onto the World Cup team and have the opportunity of trying to improve on some of my results from the Fall World Cups. I think the big thing for me is just trying to improve with every day so I'm just taking things day by day here and whatever happens, happens and I'll just have to roll with that.”

The Canadian Single Distances Championships will take place from January 5-8 in Calgary. At this competition, spots can be earned for the Winter World Cups and World Sprints.

Photo credits:
Photo 1: Submitted by Gilmore Junio (bronze medalists in the Team Sprint: Gilmore Junio, Jamie Gregg and Tyler Derraugh)
Photo 2:
Erik Pasman
Photo 3: Denny Morrison (start Team Sprint Heerenveen: Gilmore Junio, Jamie Gregg and Tyler Derraugh)