Charles Hamelin wins short-track gold, with 3 more events to go
Robert Laflamme, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 10, 2014 6:51AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 10, 2014 1:38PM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Charles Hamelin is a man on a mission.
In what could be the first of several trips to the podium, the star short-track speedskater won a gold medal in the men's 1,500 metres at the Sochi Olympics on Monday.
The native of Ste-Julie, Que., is a medal favourite in his three other events.
"I'm going through the full range of emotions," Hamelin, 29, said after finishing in two minutes 14.985 seconds to edge out Han Tianyu of China. "Of course I want to get back on the podium. But short-track speedskating is not an easy sport."
Hamelin won gold in the 500 metres and the 5,000-metre relay at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, but was seventh in the 1,500.
"It's not the distance I'm most comfortable with, but I had a good start and, later, I was able to keep control of the course," he said. "I hope to be just as solid for the rest of the week. Vancouver was a disappointment and I wanted to bounce back. I worked hard to get to this point."
Hamelin, nicknamed "The Locomotive of Sainte-Julie", was virtually unbeatable on the World Cup circuit this season, winning six events.
Viktor Ahn earned the bronze Monday, giving Russia its first-ever short-track medal. J.R. Celsi, the 2010 bronze medallist from Federal Way, Wash., finished fourth.
"He (Hamelin) deserves it," Celski said. "He went out there and raced his (rear) off."
As Hamelin entered the final lap in the lead, his girlfriend and teammate Marianne St-Gelais couldn't control her excitement, racing from her seat to the sidelines to give him a congratulatory hug.
With the silver medal he won in the relay event in Turin in 2006, Hamelin now has four Olympic medals. That leaves him one short of former teammates Marc Gagnon and Francois-Louis Tremblay.
He is also tied with Gagnon for the most gold medals for a Canadian short-track speedskater. If he wins medals in his three remaining events he will become Canada's most decorated Olympian behind long-track speedskater Cindy Klassen and speedskater/cyclist Clara Hughes, who both have six.
He will have chances to win individual gold in the 500 and 1,000 metres and he'll be part of Canada's team in the 5,000 relay.
Hamelin's third Olympic gold puts him in a tie with Gagnon and women's hockey players Hayley Wickenheiser, Becky Kellar, Jayna Hefford and Jennifer Botterill.
Gagnon was the only Canadian before Hamelin to win an Olympic medal in the 1,500 -- a bronze in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Francois Hamelin, Charles' brother, and Michael Gilday of Yellowknife didn't advance to the final. Gilday was disqualified in the semis and Hamelin was second in the B final.
In the women's 500 preliminaries, St-Gelais, from Saint-Felicien, Que., Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., all advanced from the heats.
St-Gelais, Hewitt, Maltais and Marie-Eve Drolet of Chicoutimi, Que., also advanced in the women's 3,000-metre relay.
Late in the 1,500 final, surprise finalist Jack Whelbourne of Britain crashed and took out one of the rubber lane markers. Lee Han-bin, the lone South Korean in the final, finished sixth. He was advanced into the final by the judges after teammate Sin Da-woon crashed in the semifinals and took Lee down with him.
Ahn stepped on the podium to wild cheers from the mostly Russian crowd. He was a three-time gold medallist for his native South Korea, but after missing the Vancouver Games four years ago, he changed his name and became a Russian citizen. He was known as Ahn Hyun-soo when he won gold in the 1,500 at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
"I'm a little bit nervous," he said. "I didn't think very much. I never thought I could make it to the finals, let alone stand on the podium. I took every round as my final, and tried my best to compete."