In Canada, Quebec has a history of producing top short track speed skaters who shine on the Olympic and world stage. One of the biggest names to come from the province is five-time Olympic medallist Charles Hamelin, a hero to Félix Pigeon, who hopes to follow in Hamelin’s footsteps at elite international level, starting with the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020!
How old were you when you took up short track speed skating?
I watched the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in 2010, and that made me want to take up short track. I was inspired by the performances of the Canadian skaters, in particular Charles Hamelin, who won the 500m. I was seven at the time. It wasn’t like I said to myself “I want to go to the Games one day”, but it led to me discovering skating clubs, which I didn’t know existed. I talked to my parents about it and told them I wanted to give it a go. Charles is still a role model for me, and I sometimes train with him. He’s got loads of experience but he isn’t one to talk much; I just try to watch and learn from all the things he does so well.
Do you know the competitors you’ll be facing at the YOG? And what are your goals for the event?
I don’t really know the opponents I’ll be facing in Lausanne. I’ve taken part in a few international competitions, but I have no idea who’ll be competing in Switzerland. Once I’m there, I’ll set myself realistic goals – i.e. at least reach the final in all my distances. I’ll certainly do my best. The race in which I feel strongest is the 500m. In early December, I became the Canadian junior champion over this distance – that was how I got selected for the YOG.
What do the Lausanne 2020 YOG represent for you?
Put simply, they make me want to push on. It’s going to be a major competition, and that inspires me to go as far as possible, with an eye on the 2022 Winter Games. I’d like to make a career in short track speed skating, and compete in the World Cup, World Championships and Winter Olympics. I hope that the YOG will be another step towards a successful international career.
What are you expecting from the Games?
I’ll get loads of experience out of the event. I’m going to be seeing the top athletes in my age category, the best in the world, and that will give me an idea of where they’re at in relation to me. And of course I’d like to get a podium finish, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself!
How is your preparation going?
I’m part of the national development squad [the national youth team], and the training conditions are ideal. I’m also carrying on with my studies; for me there’s no question of doing otherwise – I go to school to open up other opportunities. But my goal is to pursue a career in my sport.
Do you get support from the people around you?
My parents and sister are really supportive. My training centre – in the Maurice Richard Arena – is in Montreal, but I’m not from there; I come from Saint-Pie, more towards the south of Quebec. Because my sister also trains in Montreal, we live together. I train several times a day, every day, except Sunday. I also do tests, weight training, etc.
Where do you think you stand at international level?
I competed in the Junior World Championships last year in Montreal. I got to see the general standard there, but clearly in Lausanne it’s going to be different; I’m going to be meeting loads of people and that’s stressing me out a bit. I met my opponents at the Montreal Junior Worlds, and I took part in three international competitions this year, where I faced them again. Obviously we do talk to each other, but I don’t know everyone who’ll be going to the YOG, so I don’t know what to expect, especially from the Asian athletes, who are all really good!
What motivates you to do high-level short track?
First and foremost, it’s the competitive aspect, and there’s also the adrenaline you get from speed – you’re constantly right on the edge when you go round the bends. When I first started out I didn’t skate competitively – what appealed to me was the thrill you get from going fast. Then I started doing competitions, and I love facing off against other athletes. I’m strongest over 500m but I enjoy all the distances.