HALIFAX -- Quebec's rising speedskating star has used the Canada Winter Games to demonstrate he's returning to form after a debilitating bout of mononucleosis.
Antoine Gelinas-Beaulieu helped his province take a lead in the medal tally for the Games over the weekend, skating to gold medals in the 5,000-metre, 3,000-metre, and 1,500-metre races. He is part of the Quebec contingent favoured for another win in the team pursuit on Wednesday.
At 18, he's also part of a fresh wave of long-track racers from Quebec that's raised hopes of a restoration of the glory days of Gaetan Boucher, who won two gold medals at the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984.
"It's like a test I'm doing now. ... I'm proud of it and I'm impressed because I wasn't expecting to do that well," said Gelinas-Beaulieu after his race on Monday, where he dominated the field.
He looks at the year of illness he had to overcome as part of building character.
"It's good because I never had an obstacle like that and I think I learned a lot from that," he said.
"It will be good for the future."
Born in Sherbrooke, his career started as a Canadian short-track speedskater.
Excitement started to build in his potential at the 2009 world junior short-track championships when he won a silver medal in the 1,000-metre event. Gelinas-Beaulieu also received two bronze medals at the 2010 world juniors in long-track speedskating.
In a province with a speedskating legacy, that raised expectations that a successor to Boucher was finally emerging -- though the legendary Quebec speedskater emerged at an earlier age as a threat on the international circuit.
Gelinas-Beaulieu shrugs off comparisons and pressures, saying he's just concerned with a physical comeback.
Canadians also won't get a full read on his potential until his return to the international circuit in 2012.
"Can I compete with the Dutch? They're pretty tough. But if I can come back well from training, maybe I'll get there," he said.
Teammate Laurent Dubreuil -- who won multiple gold medals in shorter distances in Halifax -- said Boucher remains an idol for his generation.
But he said the sport in Quebec has to develop further, and there is more competition from Alberta and the other western provinces.
"If we had an indoor oval in Quebec I think the talent level would rise because right now the whole long-track team is training in Calgary," he said.
"The same oval in both cities would be great for the sport."
Dennis Duggan, the national program's technical representative at the Games, described Gelinas-Beaulieu as having a bright future on the international scene.
For now the national coaches are watching his recovery from illness, he said.
"They're like thoroughbreds, they just want to go. The toughest thing for them is to take the time and patience to recover," said Duggan.
The Canada Winter Games results are a signal that the return is coming, said Duggan.
"Antoine is back, and he'll be fine," he said.