The Canadians insist they're not paranoid, but recent revelations that teammate Olivier Jean's skate was sabotaged by a competitor has opened the uncomfortable possibility of tampering in their world.
"We ensure the locker room is always secured," Canadian short track director Yves Hamelin said Wednesday. "We don't have to get too crazy about it, but we keep an eye out to ensure nothing like that would happen in a critical moment like at a world championship."
At the season-opening World Cup that starts Friday in Calgary, the Canadians have a private room at the Olympic Oval to store their skates and equipment. They share space with competitors, however, at other stops on the circuit.
"Now that we know sabotage can happen, we don't want that to slow us down in the direction of Sochi," Jean said of the 2014 Winter Olympics. "We make sure our technician is always looking after our skates in the (locker) room or in between races."
American skater Simon Cho revealed at a news conference earlier this month he'd tampered with Jean's skates during the 2011 World Team Championships in Poland. Cho claimed he did it under orders from a coach.
Damaging a blade on Jean's skates prevented the Canadian team from racing for a gold or silver medal in the team championship. They finished fourth in the relay and third overall.
Cho apologized to Jean via telephone before that news conference. Jean graciously accepted Cho's apology, but the incident made waves throughout the international short track community, particularly on the U.S. team.
Cho will not compete in Calgary because he was not named to the American squad. Jae Su Chun, the coach Cho accused of pressuring him into the act, has denied the allegations.
An investigation by the U.S. Speedskating Association did not find evidence Chun ordered Cho to tamper with the Canadian's skates. Chun was also accused by some U.S. skaters of abusing them. He and an assistant coach were suspended and both resigned last week.
Former Canadian coach Stephen Gough of Fredericton is one of the interim coaches of the Americans.
The Canadian skaters believe the sabotage was an isolated incident, but won't take any chances. They've asked skate technician Laurent Daignault to be their equipment watchman.
"For me, I will not overprotect my stuff," double Olympic gold medallist Charles Hamelin said. "We just don't want to think about our skates all the time.
"We know now we have to have someone looking after our skates in the room and make sure we don't put them on the floor. Put them in a safe place and to have someone in the room is perfect for us."
The Canadians get an extended run on home ice to start the 2012-13 season. The second World Cup event is scheduled for Oct. 26-28 in Montreal.
Hamelin of Sainte-Julie, Que., his brother Francois, Michael Gilday of Yellowknife, Guillaume Bastille of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., Liam McFarlane of Medicine Hat, Alta., and Jean, from Lachenaie, Que., make up a deep Canadian men's team.
Jean won the overall 500-metre crown last season with Charles Hamelin ranked second.
Hamelin, 28, was Canada's only double gold medallist at the 2010 Winter Olympics with a win in the 500 metres as well as the men's relay. Charles Hamelin, Jean, McFarlane and Bastille won relay gold in this year's world championship.
Marianne St. Gelais of Saint-Felicien, Que., was twice a silver medallist in 2010. She leads a women's squad rounded out by Marie-Eve Drolet of Laterriere, Que., Edmonton's Jessica Gregg, Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., and Caroline Truchon of Chicoutimi, Que.
"Our objective for the first World Cup will be really to read where everyone is at in terms of performance, in terms of readiness," said Yves Hamelin, also the father of Charles and Francois. "Obviously, being at home, we expect as usual our athletes making finals as often as they can and then translate that into podiums."
Canada's short track team held trials at the Olympic Oval last month, but this is the first short track World Cup in Calgary since 2003. Twenty-nine countries are participating. Heats are scheduled for Friday and the finals are both Saturday and Sunday.
Gilday recalled seeing Jean's skate blade in Poland and how shocked he felt at the realization someone intentionally bent it.
"You don't touch somebody else's skates," Gilday said. "That's sort of an unwritten rule so for that to happen was really a surprise.
"I want to be able to get off the ice, sharpen my skates, put them down and continue to work on my cooldown and warm up for my next race. I'm sure the Canadian team will learn from experience and I'm sure we'll pay close attention to all our equipment in the future."Suggest a correction