Charles Hamelin, short track speed skater (born 14 April 1984 in Lévis, QC). Hamelin has won three Olympic gold medals for Canada in short track speed skating.
Charles Hamelin, short track speed skater (born 14 April 1984 in Lévis, QC). Hamelin has won three Olympic gold medals for Canada in short track speed skating. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver he won the men’s individual 500m event and the men’s 5000m team relay event (with Guillaume Bastille, François Hamelin, Olivier Jean, and François-Louis Tremblay). At the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Hamelin won a gold medal in the men’s 1500m short track speed skating event. Hamelin also won a silver medal in the men’s relay at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin. As of 2014, he has won nine gold medals at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.
Early Life and Family
Charles Hamelin’s younger brother, François, started speed skating at the age of five. Charles, the elder by two years, joined his brother on the ice when he was nine. Their father, Yves, also took a strong interest in his sons’ new passion and began coaching them. If it was not for François’s interest in speed skating, Yves would likely have continued to coach Charles in baseball, where he played second base and right field. Yves stressed the importance of preparation when teaching his sons, telling them that “the journey is more important than the destination.”
The Hamelin brothers skated regularly at the Aréna Ste-Julie in Québec before joining the Montréal-International Speed Skating Club in 2000. Success at the national level soon followed.
World Junior Success
Charles Hamelin achieved his first international medal at the 2002 World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships in South Korea. On 6 January, Hamelin was part of the Canadian team that won a silver medal in the relay. A year later, at the 2003 World Juniors in Hungary, he finished second to South Korean Lee Ho-Suk in the men’s 500m and men’s 1500m, and captured a bronze medal in the men’s 2000m relay.
On the World Cup Circuit
In 2004, Hamelin helped Canada win a silver medal in the men’s 5000m relay event at a World Cup in the Czech Republic; six days later, Hamelin won his first World Cup individual medal in Italy. He finished in third place in the men’s 1000m, an event Hamelin would later state was his favourite discipline.
On 5 December 2004, Hamelin won his first World Cup race in Saguenay,QC. The victory in the 1000m was significant for Hamelin; not only did he win in his home province, but he also beat American great Apolo Anton Ohno, proving that he was a rising star in short track speed skating. Hamelin completed his 2004–05 World Cup season with victories in the 1000m in Budapest and the 500m in Slovakia.
First Olympic Medal
During the 2004–05 season Hamelin was part of a strong Canadian men’s relay team that won two World Cup races and the World Championship in Beijing.
At the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Hamelin teamed up with Éric Bédard, Jonathan Guilmette, François-Louis Tremblay, and Mathieu Turcotte to win the silver medal in the men’s 3000m relay. The Canadians placed behind a strong team from South Korea.
Two months after winning his first Olympic medal, Hamelin won his first World Championship gold medal in an individual event in the men’s 3000m in Minnesota. He also helped Team Canada win the World Championship gold medal in the relay for the second straight year.
Golden Success in the 500m
After focusing on the longer distances and the relay in 2006, Hamelin achieved great success in the shorter distances over the next few years. In 2006–07 he won World Cup races in the men’s 500m and 1000m, and the world championship in the 500m. In 2008 and 2009, Hamelin won two World Cup competitions in the 500m, and one in the 1000m. At the 2009 World Championships in Vienna, Hamelin won his second World Championship gold medal in the 500m in three years (his third world championship victory to that date).
2010 Olympic Winter Games
Leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Hamelin won gold medals in the 500m at World Cup events in Seoul and Montréal. These victories helped him win the 2010 World Cup circuit and become the gold medal favourite at the Olympics. In Vancouver, Hamelin did not disappoint. In the men’s quarterfinals of the 500m, Hamelin set an Olympic record with a time of 40.770. In the final, he was joined by Tremblay, almost guaranteeing that a Canadian would win a medal.
The gold medal final was controversial. There was significant contact between Hamelin and South Korean Si-Bak Sung, as well as between Tremblay and Ohno. In the end, the judges concluded that Hamelin did not cause Sung to fall, while Ohno was disqualified for making contact with Tremblay. Hamelin won gold and Tremblay bronze. A short time later, Hamelin and Tremblay were part of the third Canadian team in Olympic history to win a gold medal in the men’s 5000m relay.
Career Since 2010
From 2011 to 2013, Hamelin won 13 World Cup individual races, and ten medals at the World Championship. Since the 2010 Olympic Winter Games he has become a strong all-around skater and is considered a medal contender in every short track speed skating discipline at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. His goal at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi is to win an individual race and defend Canada’s gold medal in the relay from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. Hamelin is driven by emotion and a desire to improve on what is already a spectacular record: “I want to win more medals, I want to be better at what I do.” (The Toronto Star, 29 January 2014)
2014 Winter Olympics
Hamelin’s first competition at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi went extremely well. On 10 February, he easily won his heat and the semifinal of the men’s 1500m short track speed skating competition. In the final, Hamelin made an outstanding pass on American J.R. Celski and China’s Han Tianyu to take the lead with six laps left. It would be a lead Hamelin would not relinquish on his way to capturing his third career Olympic Gold medal.
Unfortunately for Hamelin, the 1500m would be his only success in Sochi. Considered a medal contender in every discipline, Hamelin fell in the heats of the 500m and quarterfinals of the 1000m (his brother François fell in the semi-finals of the men’s 5000m relay).
2014 World Championships
The 2014 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships were special for Hamelin because they took place in his home province of Québec. In front of a large crowd at the Maurice Richard Arena in Montréal, Hamelin won a gold medal in the men’s 1500m and a bronze medal in the men’s 500m. He also finished third overall behind Russian Victor Ahn and American J.R. Celski.
Love on the Ice
For Hamelin, speed skating is a family affair. As in the 2010, Hamelin was joined on the 2014 Olympic short track speed skating team by his brother, Francois. His father, Yves, the short track program director for Speed Skating Canada, was also there to cheer the brothers on.
Hamelin’s girlfriend, Marianne St-Gelais, was also present. Like Francois and Charles, St-Gelais competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Sochi. One storyline at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver was Hamelin’s romantic relationship with St-Gelais, the Canadian Olympic silver medalist in the women’s 500m and women’s 3000m relay. St-Gelais was seen cheering for Hamelin regularly, and the two would often show their affection in public. Their kiss following Hamelin’s victory in the 500 m was widely reported. In 2010, Hello! Canada magazine named St-Gelais and Hamelin on their 50 most beautiful Canadians list.
Canadians were treated to another display of affection at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi: immediately after Hamelin’s gold medal victory in the 1500m, he and St-Gelais shared a kiss in a repeat of their Vancouver embrace. Commentators followed the love story as well as the race. After Hamelin won, CBC’s Steve Armitage asked, “Will she [St-Gelais] get the kiss? ... Will Charles Hamelin look for Marianne and recreate that magic moment with the kiss? … There we have it! Replay of four years ago.”
According to Hamelin, “there's nothing that can help me more than that — to have those guys [Marianne, Francois, Yves] with me [at Sochi] … you never know how it's going to be during the Olympics. […] It's just easy to go and talk to them. If I'm too happy, they will bring me back and make sure I'm ready to focus on what's next. If I'm sad and disappointed, they help me bring a better side of myself and make sure I'm ready to race again.” (Interview with author, 16 December 2013)