Q&A: Marianne St-Gelais key to women’s short track success
Canadian star focused on ending Meng Wang’s dominance in 500m
Marianne St-Gelais, 23, is the leader of the women’s short track speed skating team. As a two-time silver medallist at the Vancouver Games, the Saint-Félicien, Que., skater is primed for another Olympic podium run in Sochi. St-Gelais took time to speak to us about the rivalry with Chinese star Meng Wang, her boyfriend Charles Hamelin and her plans after the 2014 Sochi Games.
CBC: You celebrated your 20th birthday (Feb. 17) with a silver medal in the 500 metres in Vancouver. What emotions were you experiencing after the race?
Marianne St-Gelais: When I woke up the morning of my birthday, I wasn't thinking about my birthday. For me it was about the day of my competition, the day of my final. So I didn't think about it at all. I think I realized [it] after the race when I was on the ice, celebrating my silver. I was looking up at my parents and I thought, 'Oh, that's my birthday, it's the perfect gift.’ It was pretty exciting after that. I think I was just enjoying the moment because it was once in a lifetime. I was really proud of myself.
CBC: Gold in the 500m has eluded you during past world championships. Will it be within reach in Sochi and can you beat Chinese star Meng Wang?
MS: I think we're getting closer. We saw Meng Wang in Vancouver and she was so far ahead of us. Since 2010, we’ve worked on our speed. This year I have to prove that I can follow her and maybe beat her. I believe in the gold and I think I can achieve that gold, but we never know in short track. I'll be there and I'll be ready to beat Meng Wang, for sure. I'm saying Meng Wang because for me it's my competitor, it's my No. 1 competitor. I'll be ready.
CBC: The world got to watch you embrace boyfriend and Olympic champion Charles Hamelin in a kiss following his 500-metre win in Vancouver. Do you seek his advice?
MS: I see him as my boyfriend, my [role] model, my inspiration. He helps me a lot, not because he gives me advice and things like that, but because when I see him skating, that's his advice. When he's skating on the ice, and I saw him winning [Olympic gold in Vancouver], that's how he can help me the most. He's skating so well, he has so much experience. For me it's impossible to beat Charles, he's too strong for me, but he's a really good skater. Every time he's doing something really well I'm taking notes, and I'm like, 'Some day I'm going to do the same,’ and I'll be the world champion or something. We don't want to cross that line, like a coach. You're my boyfriend first, but I know you're a good skater so just show me the road and I'll follow you after that.
CBC: You're also a vital member of the women’s 3,000m relay team. The team won a silver medal in Vancouver. Can you do better in Sochi?
MS: I think it's going [to be] our year. We've been through so much since 2010. The team switch we had, like some of the girls quit skating and others came on the team. Valerie [Maltais] and I [have] known each other for 10 years and know how to work together. Jessica Gregg was [on the] Vancouver [team] and we all have the same goal: we want to go for the gold. We're working so hard for that every day so we want to achieve that [gold]. I think we're going to be at the top in Sochi.
CBC: You'll be 24 when the Olympics take place in February. Have you given any thought to competing at future Olympic Games?
MS: After Vancouver I knew I was going to Sochi. But I'm not sure about 2018 [in Pyeongchang, South Korea]. Not because I don't want to but because I want to take it on a year-to-year basis. I think when you go through an Olympic cycle you need to be 100 per cent [committed] for four years and I don't know if I can do it. I don't know if my boyfriend will stop and we want to have a family together. So we'll see how things will happen. If I'm still enjoying skating I don't know why I'll stop.