Q&A: Charles Hamelin focused on Olympic legacy
Canadian short track star expects another gold rush in Sochi
Short track speed skater Charles Hamelin, 29, is already one of the most decorated Olympians Canada has ever produced. Hamelin was one of the stars during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, capturing gold in the men’s 500 metres and 5,000m relay team. With the Winter Games in Russia less than 100 days away, we spoke to the skater from Levis, Que., about his expectations for Sochi, the pursuit of an historic Olympic repeat and the bizarre sabotage that befell the Canada's team at the 2011 world team championship.
CBC: What will be the difference between competing in Sochi and competing in Vancouver?
Charles Hamelin: In Vancouver I had my close family. I had about three members of my family and we were with our crowd and people were rooting for us. In Sochi, it will be different because people will be cheering for the Russian [skaters]. The crowd will be different and we will be more low profile at the rink. But I think the pressure will be a little bit less from the media. In Canada it's always more and you always want to give more in your performance. It's not like in Sochi I won't give my 100 per cent. I will always give what I have to get the gold, but the media will be less demanding.
CBC: In Vancouver you won two gold medals, but some believe you had a legitimate shot at four. Were you disappointed you didn't win the 1,000 and 1,500 events, too?
CH: My personal goal was to bring back two gold medals — one individual and one in the relay — so I was satisfied with what I did in Vancouver. [It would've been great if] I won three or four but short track is short track. We never can predict what's going to happen in a race and who will win, so it's a difficult sport to predict, and that's what I like.
CBC: What are your expectations for Sochi, and are four gold medals a realistic goal?
CH: My goal is to bring back two gold medals again. If I can redo what I did in Vancouver it will be another great Olympic end with my goals accomplished, but I feel like I can do more. I'll say I'm going to Sochi with more experience and with more strategy in my mind so I will be an athlete that will be more difficult to beat. It will give me more chances to win other medals. With two medals around my neck coming back to Canada, I'll be satisfied with my performance.
CBC: No man has ever repeated as Olympic champion in the 500 metres. Have you thought about your legacy to the sport if you win this event again?
CH: Yes, I thought about that for sure. I look at it and I know that I could do that. It's why I want to do it because I think it's a great focus and a good objective to have. If I can do that it would be a great moment for me.
CBC: Why has the relay team traditionally been a power?
CH: We have a good chemistry and training and we have a big group of guys where the goals are to make everyone better. I know that in order to be better I have to be 100 per cent, and I have to challenge my teammates. My teammates know that if they want to be better, they have to challenge me. It's always like that in every practice. When you see someone do a great set or great training, you want to do exactly the same or even better, so we always push each other in training. I think it's why Canada is a strong relay team.
CBC: Should Canadians expect a repeat?
CH: We've shown for the last four years that we're the team to beat. Last year we won the world championship so we are going into Sochi with a lot of confidence, and we're going to make sure we have the legs to win gold again.
CBC: What was your initial reaction when you learned teammate Olivier Jean was the victim of sabotage at the 2011 world team championship by American Simon Cho?
CH: I was really mad about that because we've never seen that sort of thing in short track. I never thought I could've seen something like that because in the short track world we are rivals, but we have respect between the countries and the skaters. I never thought that anyone can do that to anyone on the circuit. It's even sadder because [Cho] took our chance to win the gold in the world team championship in Warsaw. We finished third but [competed] with only three guys on the ice because Olivier Jean wasn't able to skate.
CBC: Will the team take extra precautions in Sochi?
CH: We've taken better precaution since that event and hopefully the team will take care of our stuff and they will always have someone in the room to have an eye on our stuff, and to make sure we're not going on the ice with a broken blade.