Lachlan Hay and Pierre Boda will lead a strong men’s team into this year’s short track speed skating World Cup circuit.
Dual Olympian Hay competed at the Australian Open Championships this weekend, his first competition back from retirement. He grabbed the 1000m National Title, his first since 2012 and had a podium finish in all his other races.
“It was exciting being back on the ice,” Hay said. “I was a bit nervous after taking two and a half years off - I had quite a bit of catching up to. But I’ve come back up to speed really quickly and it’s good to be back with the guys and back with the team.”
Hay competed at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games before giving up the sport when he could no longer find the motivation he needed to excel. Fast forward to 2015 and Hay is in a better place with his skating than ever before.
“My times are really good,” he said. “They’re on par, if not a little bit faster than they were when I was racing before. The times that I am doing in training and that I did at World Cup trials were times that I would have been doing at my peak before.”
“The World Cups for me this season will not so much focus on results, it will just be getting back into the swing of things, back into racing. I’ll still go out there to get a result and do the best I can but I am not going to put pressure on myself. I don’t think I’ll be nervous just excited.”
Results will be the focus for Hay’s teammate Pierre Boda. The 2014 Olympian is going from strength to strength with his skating, picking up the 1500m title at the Australian Championships.
“Last season, pretty much every distance I competed in I got PBs [personal bests],” Boda said.
“Not just one-off PBs - in every round of competition I was getting one. Over the last season I’ve improved so much and got so much stronger and this season I’m skating even better times already. So I’m looking forward to this World Cup season.”
Boda puts his improvement down to his training under new coach Anthony Barthell.
“Training has been a lot harder,” he said. “All the boys’ levels have come up so much so there has been a lot better competition on the team. Everyone has been working really hard to push their times all year round.”
“I’m hoping to see results come the same as our training has improved - hopefully it translates into racing and international competition. The 2018 Olympics are in my sights, but at the moment I am just working one step at a time and not thinking too much about it.”
With the improvement across the board in the men’s program, comes the exciting prospect of a competitive relay team.
Australia has a proud history in the short track relay, having won bronze at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, Australia’s first Winter Olympic medal. The last time Australia competed in the relay at an Olympics was in Torino 2006, of which Hay was a part. Nearly a decade later, Hay believes they are better placed than ever to get back to the top.
“I’m really excited to do the relay with the guys,” Hay said. “It was one of the main drives for me to come back – to do the relay. I honestly think the relay is a chance for 2018.
“The relay dropped off the radar the last six to eight years and it is really good that Anthony is keen to get it up and going again. The guys had a pretty good result last year in the relay so I think with the addition of myself to the team we are really going to step up and be in that top eight mix again and get that Olympic spot. It’s the goal and it’s not unrealistic at all.”
The following men have qualified for the 2015/16 World Cup Australian Team
2015 Australian Open Short Track Speed Skating – Seniors Results
In the 500m dash, a race that relies on speed over tactics, Boda came out front early and was tailed for much of the race by Hay and then Bryant. The pack tightened on the bell lap and there was little separating the three skaters. In the end it was Bryant who emerged victorious, skating a fast 42.712 to win the race and take the title from Boda who settled for second with Hay third.
1. Alex Bryant
2. Pierre Boda
3. Lachlan Hay
Lachlan Hay grabbed his first title of the Australian Championships when he won the 1000m in 1:39.533 ahead of Pierre Boda (1:39.555) and Alex Bryant (1:39.895). It was Hay’s first title since 2012 and a strong sign he is back in form. Keanu Blunden showed his acrobatic skills when he almost fell on the opening lap. He made the best recovery of the competition to stay upright and close back in on the pack to finish fourth.
1. Lachlan Hay
2. Pierre Boda
3. Alex Bryant
Reigning Australian Champion Boda retained his 1500m title, taking out the race in a tight finish with former champion Hay. Boda held back for most of the race, making his push to join Hay at the head of the pack with a couple of laps to go. He held on for the win in 2:34.773 with Hay just behind him in 2:35.532. Sydney’s Keanu Blunden was third in 2:37.149.
1. Pierre Boda
2. Lachlan Hay
3. Keanu Blunden
In an eight-man super final of the 3000m, Hay was the best performing Aussies, placing second in 5:12.768. At the 18 lap mark and with bonus points on offer, Olympians Boda and Hay were neck and neck but Boda just snuck ahead of Hay to grab the points. The push for the points hurt Boda however and he dropped off the pace in the second half of the race, eventually finishing fifth. With three laps to go it was a race between Hay and Zachary Biggs but it was the New Zealander who emerged victorious, winning in 5:12.517. Jason Clague was third in 5:14.286.
1. Zachary Biggs (New Zealand)
2. Lachlan Hay
3. Jason Clague (New Zealand)