End of an era for Canada’s ‘first family’ of short track
Canadian short-track skaters Charles and Francois Hamelin, and Marianne St Gelais, who is Charles' partner away from the ice, have all announced that PyeongChang 2018 will be their last Olympic Winter Games.
Between them they have amassed nine Olympic medals. All three skaters plan to continue competing until March's World Championships on home ice in Montreal, but their final curtain call on the Olympic stage came at the Gangneung Ice Arena on 22 February, when the Hamelin brothers helped Canada’s men win bronze in the men’s 5,000m relay, while St Gelais bowed out in the quarter-finals of the women’s 1,000m.
The men’s 5,000m relay at PyeongChang 2018 was full of dramatic twists and turns, as the quartets from Canada, the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China each took turns to lead before, with just two laps remaining, Hungary surged into poll position to snatch gold, while Canada were edged into third place by the Chinese.
For Charles Hamelin, Canada’s bronze brought him a record-equalling third Olympic medal in this event (he was also a member of the teams that won silver at Turin 2006 and gold at Vancouver 2010), matching the totals of his compatriots Eric Bedard and Francois-Louis Tremblay. It was also his fifth Olympic medal overall (three golds, one silver and one bronze), placing him alongside Tremblay and Marc Gagnon at the top of the Canadian short track medal rankings.
There was to be no such happy ending for St Gelais, whose Olympic career apexed at Vancouver 2010 when she won two silvers. Her third-place finish in her 1,000m quarter-final saw her hopes of a medal dashed, compounding the disappointment of her disqualification in her other event, the 500m, nine days earlier.
As Charles readily admitted, they were the kind of highs and lows that brought into sharp focus just what the Hamelin family will be leaving behind.
“Of course, I'm going to miss it,” said Charles. “I'm not going to get that feeling again in my life, ever. I'm going to adapt and I'll be a little bit more calm. [But] when I go watch those guys race, my stress will go up again.”
Coming into PyeongChang 2018, the three skaters boasted eight Olympic medals between them, dating back to Turin 2006. To make it even more of a family affair, Yves Hamelin, father of Charles and Francois, was team leader at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
“Representing the family, we feel the engagement is different," said Yves, who is in PyeongChang to support his sons. “Your kids are part of it, (but) they feel ready to move on. They feel ready to invest themselves into the next step. We want more [grandchildren]. That's the plan.”
Charles hinted that he and his partner may soon be willing to oblige. “Marianne and I have plans for the future, and we'll see what will happen.”
The two brothers are already making plans for the future. Charles aims to become more involved in the Nagano Skate programme, which provides equipment and expertise to young skaters, and also hopes to start working as a coach. As for St. Gelais, for now she says she is simply looking forward to taking things easy for a while.
“I want to stay a little bit far from the sport for a little moment. I enjoy my sport. I like it. I want to come back to it, but not too fast. I need a break,” she reflected.
Meanwhile, Yves Hamelin admits it will be hard, both for his children and himself, to live life without the thrill of Olympic competition: “Not seeing them [in competition], not having them in the action, will never be the same.”