Short track speed skating is something of a Hamelin family obsession.
Olympic debut in Turin
In Turin’s Palavela arena in 2006, Charles Hamelin won his first Olympic medal when he teamed up with Eric Bédard, François-Louis Tremblay and Mathieu Turcotte to take silver for Canada in the relay. They were denied the gold by the quartet from Republic of Korea, who finished three-tenths of a second ahead of them in the final. Hamelin, still just 21, then signalled his future threat as he finished fourth in the 1,500m. In fact, Turin served as a terrific springboard, as over the following four years, the Canadian went on to establish himself as a major international force, twice winning the 500m world title. His sights were very much set on the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Double gold in Vancouver
When Vancouver 2010 finally came around, Hamelin was in peak form, but his Games got off to a disappointing start, as he could only manage fourth in the 1,500m and seventh in the 1,000m. However, on 26 February, he had two golden opportunities to transform his Games, as he lined up in the 500m final and then the 5,000m relay.
In the 500m Hamelin produced a dream performance to win gold in front of an adoring home crowd, setting a new Olympic record in the process. He was joined on the podium by compatriot François-Louis Tremblay, who took bronze. However, there was no time for either of them to savour their achievements as within a matter of minutes they were back on the ice for the team event, in which they were joined by Olivier Jean and Hamelin’s younger brother, François to implement what they had dubbed ‘Operation Cobra’.
The race was extremely close, and in the final the four top teams were separated by only four tenths of a second. The Canadian quartets’ plan worked to perfection, as anchor man Tremblay broke free in the last few laps of the final leg to lead his team to victory and edge the reigning champions from Republic of Korea into second place. The crowd that packed the Pacific Coliseum went wild, and the picture of Hamelin’s girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais, who herself won a short-track medal in Vancouver, running down from the stand to embrace him, became one of the 2010 Games’ most iconic images.
Third title in Sochi
During the four years leading up to Sochi 2014, Hamelin maintained his rich vein of form, adding another 11 world championship medals to his haul, including three consecutive golds in the 5,000m relay (2011, 2012, 2013). On 10 February 2014, the Canadian went into the opening short-track event at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace, the 1,500m, as firm favourite, and he lived up to his billing in imperious fashion, sweeping aside his rivals to claim a third Olympic title.
The 29-year-old used all his experience to avoid the jockeying for position and subsequent falls that took several of his competitors out of the competition. USA’s J.R. Celski attempted to attack the Canadian eight laps from the finish, but Hamelin countered two laps later to move to the front of the pack where he remained until the finish, seeing off Han Tianyu and Victor An of Russia, who took silver and bronze respectively. “I couldn’t have dreamed of it going any better. Returning to the Games and then winning gold in the 1,500m! In the last few years, people have said this distance was my weak spot, but I’ve worked hard to prove them wrong, and today I think I did just that.”
There were no further medals for Hamelin in Sochi, but he will be back in in the fray at PyeongChang in 2018 as he looks to add to his three Olympic golds.