Short Track

Thursday Feb. 13, 2014 05:58 ET

Canadian men's short track relay team fails to defend title

Francois Hamelin crashes as Canada won't repeat

Francois Hamelin, front, is comforted by teammate Michael Gilday after he crashed during the men’s 5000-metre relay semifinal competition on Thursday. Canada won’t be defending its Olympic crown. (Richard Lautens/Getty Images)
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The Canadian men’s short track 5,000-metre relay team failed to qualify for the Olympic final Thursday at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi.

In a stunning development, Canada won’t get the opportunity to defend the gold medal it won four years ago in Vancouver.

With Canada firmly in third place throughout the race, Francois Hamelin lost an edge and crashed into the boards around the halfway mark.

Hamelin had no teammate close enough tag up with, leaving the Canadians with no chance to catch the leaders.

"It looks like Francois just swept down [slipped], the ice just broke out on him," said team member Michael Gilday. "We had plans in case somebody fell that we would be ready to execute. It was tough to execute though, but it's part of the game. We probably closed up half the gap that we had, which is I think pretty good."

Russia came all the way back from last place to win the 42-lap race in six minutes, 44.331 seconds. China grabbed the last qualifying spot with a time of 6:44.521.

Canada finished last in its group 6:48.186.

"We had high hopes for this relay - I mean we are the reigning world and Olympic champions," said Gilday. "We wanted to win. We'll fight it off in the B final. It's extremely disappointing and it's not the way we wanted the thing to turn out."

The Canadian team consisted of Gilday, of Yellowknife, Charles Hamelin, of Levis, Que., Francois Hamelin, of Levis, Que., and Olivier Jean, from Lachenaie, Que.

Canada's disappointing result means Charles Hamelin won't become Canada's most decorated Olympian in Sochi. The 29-year-old needed to win medals in all four short tack events to surpass both speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/cyclist Clara Hughes, who each won six medals.

Hamelin still has the opportunity to match Klassen and Hughes should he reach the podium in both the 1,000m and 500m.

Korea, a perennial power in short track, also failed to qualify for the final after crashing in the opening heat.

The final will include the Netherlands, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and the U.S., which got an advancement after colliding with Korea.

Charles Hamelin advances in 1,000m

Charles Hamelin led three Canadian short track speed skaters into the quarter-finals of the men’s 1,000 metres.

Hamelin, of Ste. Julie, Que, who won gold in the men’s 1,500m on Monday, finished first in his heat with a time of one minute, 25.742 seconds.

There was an anxious moment for Hamelin, who made contact with Wenhao Liang as he passed the Chinese skater. But a review cleared Hamelin of interference, allowing the Canadian to move on.

Hamelin won three World Cup races in the 1,000m this season and is a two-time world silver medallist.

Charle Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., (1:24.787) and Jean (1:26.089) also qualified for the men’s quarter-finals. Both won their respective heats.

On Monday, Canada's all-time Olympic short track medal total was increased to eight gold medals and 26 medals overall since the sport debuted in 1992 when Hamelin won the 1,500m.

Hamelin captured his third career gold, to go with a silver from 2006.

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