CALGARY, Canada, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Olympic gold medalist Wang Meng returned from her one-year hiatus from short-track speedskating on Friday at the first ISU World Cup event of the season in Canada and quickly found out the competition had improved.
On a day when Canadian Valerie Maltais broke the world record in the 1,000 meters during her qualification heat, Wang, the four-time Olympic gold medalist who has had her share of battles with national team coaches over the years, advanced in her heats in both the 500 meters (43.816) and the 1,000 meters (1:31.162).
In the 500 meters, a distance in which Wang holds the world record (42.609), she was second overall behind Canada's Marianne St. Gelais (43.571) on Calgary's Olympic Oval. Compatriot Fan Kexin (43.833) was third overall, while Liu Qiuhong (44.325) was fifth as both advanced.
In the 1,000 meters, Wang finished in the middle of the pack in the 37-skater field as Quebec native Maltais smashed the world record set by China's Zhou Yang at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics with a time of 1:27.653, shaving 1.396 seconds off the old mark.
Other Chinese skaters qualifying for the 1,000-meter semifinals included Liu (1:32.809) and Fan (1:32.988) as both won their heats.
Maltais, who was second overall at the World Championships in Shanghai in March, said she had an inkling she could set a new world record as she beat Zhou' s mark during the Canadian World Cup selections last month.
"When I started my race I just told my coach (Frederic Blackburn) I was going to go fast during the race, but I didn't say I was trying to break the record," said the 22-year-old. "The first round is the time to do it because after it's more strategic to make sure to secure our position."
Other strong performances by Chinese women were registered in the 1,500 meters. Han Yutong was first among the qualifiers with a time of 2:20.585, while Li Jianrou (2:23.156) was fourth.
In the men's qualifiers, Liang Wenhao (41.520) and Gong Qiuwen both advanced in the 500 meters as each won their respective heats.
Both skaters continued their strong performances in the 1,000 meters as Gong had a time of 1:25.400 in the preliminaries, while Liang posted a 1:26.30 to advance to the quarterfinals at the three-day meet.
Canada's Jean Olivier, who was the victim in a skate sabotage scandal at last year's World Short-Track Team Speedskating Championships in Poland, set the pace with a time of 1:24.610.
Yu Yongjun was the only Chinese skater to advance to the semifinals in the men's 1,500 meters as the 24-year-old finished with a time of 2:13.386 in the rep heats.