Drawing on short-track skills, La Rue and Marcotte capture Canadian gold and bronze

LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – The Canadian speed skating party continued on Friday, and it couldn’t have ended any better at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games. 

After an hour’s delay and amidst the fog and snow, Canada’s David La Rue and Hubert Marcotte hit the Lake Placid Olympic Oval for one last time, skating to gold and bronze in the men’s mass start. 

La Rue skated a time of 8:34. 22 to secure his third medal of the Lake Placid 2023 Games, tying biathlete Shilo Rousseau for the most in Northern New York and becoming just the fourth Canadian to win a triple at the same Winter Games. Meanwhile, Hubert Marcotte skated to the bronze medal in a time of 8:35.32.

Daniele De Stefano of Italy took the silver with a time of 8:35.22.

“At the finish line, I didn’t know he was third,” La Rue, a native of Saint-Lambert, QC, told 49 Sports. “Then he came to me and was like, ‘congrats, I finished third,’ and I was like ‘let’s go!”

Pitting skaters against each other through 16 laps and sprint laps, the mass start is unlike any of the other long-track speed skating events, as athletes skate against each other with several on the ice at a time rather than purely skating against the clock. 

On the final turn of the race, several skaters got tied up and fell into the side padding, allowing Marcotte to push through to third and La Rue to finish in the top spot by several meters. 

“It was such an aggressive race,” La rue said. “Skaters were making a lot of contacts and a lot of uncertainty, and then when we arrived at the line, we were just happy with the outcome.”

Ahead of Friday’s final event, Canadians reached the podium four other times on the track, with Laura Hall and Rose-Anne Grenier capturing gold and bronze in the women’s 3000m, La Rue bronze in the men’s 1000m and the men’s team pursuit. 

“He helped me, he didn’t know, but I was seeing him the whole race, and he carried the speed, and I just tried to follow him,” Marcotte said.

For the two from Laval University, the mass start suits their strengths. It was just this season that La Rue stopped regularly training short track after he and Marcotte began their speed skating careers on the small ice. 

The tactics of skating in a group, seeking out chances to pass, and, most importantly, staying on the skates amid the chaos is invaluable in the mass start. For Canadians who often come up through short-track programs due to lack of ovals, it’s a strength. 

“We are short trackers at our base, so we’re used to this kind of strategy, the aggressiveness, how to stay up, it’s our jam,” La Rue said. “It’s my first year without any short track… but it’s still in my blood.”

On Thursday night, as short-track racing got underway across the street at the 1932 Olympic rink, Marcotte and La Rue sat in the front row and watched their Speed Skating Canada compatriots take on their first events of the Games.

“I brought my short-track skills from when I did short track, and I just managed to go through all the skaters, and I then saw myself at the finish line; I didn’t know I had it until the line,” La Rue said. “I knew I had some good speed and that I had to push hard to the line.”

With his three medals, La Rue also ties former Canadian Olympic speed skater Sussan Auch, who won a triple at the Belluno 1985 Games before winning long track silver medals at the Lillehammer.

Lake Placid 2023 ends for Canda’s speed skaters, featuring their best performance since winning 15 medals and nearly sweeping the sport at the Belluno 1985 FISU Games, yet for La Rue, it’s all about the next steps and standing on the podium with his teammate. 

“It’s pretty incredible, and all the [Canadian] skaters did a pretty good job, and it’s pretty amazing what we did in the week so we are pretty happy about it,” La Rue said. 

”“We’ve ended the week with an amazing race, and we can now just enjoy the weekend.”

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