Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — Charles Hamelin summed up his career in one word: family.
And in front of family and friends, including his daughter Violette, he will do his final lap at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships to be held April 8-10 at Montreal’s Maurice-Richard Arena.
“It will be the first and last time that she (her daughter Violette, who will turn 2 later in April) will be able to see me compete,” said Hamelin, who will be hanging up her skates at the end of April for the competition.
“We bought earmuffs so they wouldn’t be bothered too much by the noise of the crowd,” he added at a news conference on Wednesday. I can’t wait to have her with me during the competition so she can feel the atmosphere of the competition. She sees me on TV and knows I’m skating because she’s like, ‘Dad! Dad! Let’s go! Let’s go!’ But I want her to feel the energy of the crowd during a competition. I can not wait.”
Hamelin was due to retire at the end of the 2018 season, then experienced a split from partner and long-time teammate Marianne St-Gelais. He said he didn’t want to end his career with the bitter taste of the PyeongChang Olympics in his mouth, even though a few weeks later he won the cumulative title at the World Championships, also presented in Montreal.
This time Hamelin is calm as he nears his last shots in the competition.
“We had so much fun in Beijing despite COVID, masks and testing,” he said.
During the Beijing Olympics, Hamelin won gold along with Pascal Dion, Steven Dubois, Jordan Pierre-Gilles and Maxime Laoun in the men’s 5000m relay. Nicknamed “the engine of Sainte-Julie,” she is Canada’s most successful athlete at the Winter Games, along with long-distance speed skater Cindy Klassen. Swimmer Penny Oleksiak is Canada’s most Olympic athlete with seven medals.
Hamelin, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on April 14, is leading four hockey players along with hockey players Caroline Ouellette, Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser in Canada’s gold medal line-up.
During her long career, which began in the World Cup in 2003, Hamelin also won 37 World Cup medals and well over a hundred World Cup medals, becoming one of the great stars of his sport.
“Charles was a role model for so many athletes,” said Kim Boutin, unable to contain his emotions. It is thanks to him that I believed in my dreams, that I believed in being able to write my own story.
“He has a young team behind him and it’s special to see a great athlete who continues to inspire young people by being himself.”
Hamelin also had trouble holding back tears at testimonials from his teammates on Wednesday.
“It makes me emotional,” Hamelin admitted. What I like most is that I’m confident that this gang will carry on what I’ve done with the others who have already retired. They are the ones who are going to lead the group and behind them there are young people who are pushing and have the taste to win to also write their own story.
Hamelin said he should have been in Punta Cana, Mexico, with his partner Geneviève Tardif and their daughter this week. He had to postpone this project when Short Track Worlds was postponed by three weeks in order to be able to present it to audiences in Montreal as planned.
He would never have missed this chance to end his career with his family.
“Speed skating is family,” Hamelin said. You are part of a team. I always say that the national team members will be part of my family for the rest of my life. When I started at Sainte-Julie I felt like I had a second family – everyone in the arena, the skaters, the coaches, the parents. It’s the same 30 years later.
“You have to have dreams and believe in them, believe in yourself and work hard while having fun. I wouldn’t be here without joy. It is important in all walks of life to have fun.
Hamelin, who will only compete in the relay race during the World Championships, therefore promises to make the most of his final moments as an athlete. Regardless of the result, all he has to do is watch his family and daughter in the stands to keep smiling.
Note to readers: corrected version. Charles Hamelin’s daughter is called Violette and not Vivianne.