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JG.com:   Based on what I’ve been hearing and seeing this last week, it sounds like making the team is pretty hard.  But which is more mentally trying:  making the Olympic Team or actually competing in the Olympics?

 

Jonathan:  (He laughs to himself and says, while still laughing) Making the Olympic Team!  But it depends.  Like I said, if it’s your first time at the Olympic Games, it’s super-hard mentally 'cause there’s so many distractions, but if you’ve been there and you know what to do, it’s much harder mentally to [compete in the Trials].  Those Canadian Trials are so long and it’s so demanding emotionally and physically and mentally, that it’s much harder.  Once you’re at the Games, if you qualify for the Canadian Team you have a good shot at a medal anyway and you just do your thing there and enjoy the moment.  It’s less stressful than the Canadian Trials.  It’s funny to say, but it’s true.

 

Like you can see some skaters today that didn’t make it, like Steve [Robillard] or “Jeff” [Jean-François] Monette and they had kind of a big expectation.  And they had to have big expectations because they’re super-good skaters and they had a good shot at it.  But if you don’t make the team, you don’t do World Cups during the year, you don’t go to the Olympic Games, you don’t do the World Championship.  The [Olympic] team is gonna be the same team for the rest of the year, so that was the time [to make the team] and if you don’t make it, it’s so stressful.

 

At the Olympic Games, if you don’t do good, well, everybody sees you not doing good, but you’re still making the World Team [Championship] after that and the World Championship, so it’s different.

Photo by Lori J. Bayne
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Jonathan Guilmette, just moments after he found out he made the Olympic Team for 2006!

JG.com:   So what are your goals for the season?

 

Jonathan:  Well … (He stops and laughs to himself again, since he's just explained how one must make the team to skate at all in an Olympic year.) … knowing what I know right now tonight, it’s a good thing to do the interview now.  [My goal is] just to qualify to skate the 1500 at the Games, to try to win a medal, I think.  It’s pretty fair to say I can … that I have a shot at a medal in the 1500m.  I tried it in Salt Lake and it was my 1st distance, and I was DQ’d in the 1st round.  It was a big disappointment.  Hopefully I can make up for it this time and help the team in the relay ... to try to beat the Koreans in the relay, or any other team.  Last year, it was pretty much us and the Koreans that were super strong, and the other teams had a little gap behind us.  We won in '98, we won in '2002, and we’re gonna try to keep the gold medal in Canada.

 

JG.com:   Before the interview, you said that the 1000m final race of the Trials was just for show and that you were all going for an unofficial lap world record.  Can you explain that a bit more, and why you did this at the Olympic Trials?  Weren’t your positions on the team at stake?

 

Jonathan:  Oh!  It was just a funny thing.  We knew it was not going to count for a world record 'cause it’s not an international competition.  So we just decided – I pulled the 1st five laps and Steve pulled two laps and François-Louis had two laps at the end.  Like, it was already decided that way [between us] because François-Louis had very good legs and he thought he would be able to finish it at a good pace at the end.  So I said, “I’m gonna go 1st and do as many laps as I can at a good time, in 8.7 [seconds].”

 

JG.com:   Is that what you did?  8.7?

 

Jonathan:  Yeah, it was like 8.7,  8.7,  8.7,  8.9 and then 9.0.

 

JG.com:   It’s so exciting to watch you skate like that.  I love watching you skate really fast and in the lead!

 

Jonathan:  (He smiles broadly, the edges of his eyes crinkling and says)  Yeah, yeah!  It’s a lot of fun to do it, too!!  I love it!!  So it was just for fun and just for the show, because it’s not super-fast ice her in Chicoutimi, or in Saguenay, sorry.  They changed the name, yeah?  Anyway, it’s not a super-fast ice.  But we saw that we were doing super-good times during the week and I think we’re in super-good shape.  So we decided to try it anyway, even if the ice was not fast, 'cause we were so close to it [the world record] the other night.  So just for fun, it was the last race, [and there was] no consequence to that race.

Photo by Lori J. Bayne
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Jo (left), Vicent (brother-in-law, center) and Nathalie (sister, right) just after Jo made the team

JG.com:   So that race was not going to change the standings?

 

Jonathan:   Nope!  Nope!  So that’s why we did that.  We couldn’t change a thing if we finished 1st or last or whatever.  I was sure to be in the Top 5 and I was sure not to skate the 1000, so …

 

JG.com:  So the 1000 and the 500, you’re not gonna skate those at all at the Olympics?

 

Jonathan:  Nope!  No.  (then after a long pause he laughs softly and says under his breath)  I don’t mind. 

 

JG.com:  Really?  Why?

 

Jonathan:  Because we have super-good skaters and they’re gonna be able to do good.  And I didn’t wanna skate the 500 'cause I know I’m not as good a 500 skater as the other ones like Eric [Bedard], François-Louis [Tremblay] and Mathieu [Turcotte] and even Charles [Hamelin].  So I didn’t wanna skate the 500.  The 1000, I had a shot to skate it still, but I was more worried about losing my 5th place and not skating anything.  I already had the 1500m that I was sure to try to skate if I was in the Top 5, so I was more worried about that and my focus was more on that than on trying to skate the 1000.  This compared to Eric who was already sure to skate the 500 and to be in the Top 5, so he was able to skate stress-free.

 

JG.com:  I know that the distances skated will be definitively determined based on how you all skate at the 3rd and 4th World Cups this year, but who is tentatively scheduled to skate which distances for the men?

 

Jonathan:  The 1500 is gonna be me, Charles and Mathieu.  The 500 and 1000 are gonna be the same:  Mathieu, Eric and François-Louis.  All five of us are gonna try to skate a distance at the Games.  So that’s good.

 

JG.com:  That will be nice!  Now, yesterday you were mentioning that you were on the “Legends Page” of the Speed Skating Canada calendar.  (See the "Fun Stuff" page and click on "Contests" for a chance to win one of these calendars, autographed by Jo!) Gaéton Boucher is also on that page, and he’s the skater who influenced you and got you started in skating, is that right?

 

Jonathan:  Yeah, yeah, it is!

 

JG.com:  What’s it like to be on the same page with him as an Olympic Legend and to be there with your speed skating hero?

Gayton Boucher, far left, wearing red coat & holding up yellow flowers from the 1984 Olympic podium

Jonathan:  (He looks down at the calendar sitting beside him and laughs rather hard as he says)  It’s weird!!!  'Cause it’s like, not only a totally different generation, but he came this summer when we did a … how do say … like an athlete get-together this summer at Lake Louise in Alberta.  And it was all the top athletes in Canada for winter games that potentially had chances of winning medals at the Games, so we had a super-good level of athletes there.  They had a lot of people who came to talk and Gaéton was one of them, and it was fun 'cause I never really talked to him, but he did a great speech.  He was talking about his experiences at the Games, sharing that with all the athletes.

 

(He then looks down at the calendar again and points to the shot of Boucher and says)  It’s cool to be there with him and I can remember that I saw this picture, like I saw it live on TV.  He’s a Quebecker, he’s from Québec province, and he was one of the only ones who won medals at those Olympic Games [in Sarajevo].  He won three medals.  He was like a big star and he was everywhere on TV in '84 so I  was influenced by him to start speed skating.  It’s fun to be in the same page!  It’s quite an honor to be there with Catriona [LeMay Doan] and him and Marc [Gagnon] and our relay team [from 2002], and even Jeremy [Wotherspoon] (who was on bottom of the calendar).  It’s an honor!!

Trials and Tribulations, page 3

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