Hamelin hoping for the moment of a lifetime

If Osborne-Paradis doesn't get gold, Hamelin could make history

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By the time he pulls on his blades for his warmup early Saturday night, Charles Hamelin will know if he has a shot at immortality.

If Canadian Cowboy Manuel Osborne-Paradis, or a surprise teammate, doesn’t ski to gold in the men’s downhill earlier in the day, it’ll be Hamelin’s turn to step to the precipice of Canadian history.

The possibility of being the first Canuck to win Olympic gold in this country is not lost on the 25-year-old Quebec short tracker.

“If it happens, it will be the greatest moment in my life,” Hamelin said. “And it’ll be a great moment for Canada.”

Hamelin has tried to picture that moment, circling the track before a packed house of screaming fans at the Pacific Coliseum, a flag draped around him, his face beamed onto virtually every flat-screen in the country.

But he can’t.

“I tried,” Hamelin acknowledged. “But I would not be able to put in my mind exactly what it will be like.”

Perhaps that’s territory best left unexplored, given the enormity of it.

Hamelin is second on the list of the Big Three — his 1,500-metre race will come just before the moguls run by gold-medal favourite Jennifer Heil of freestyle skiing fame.

With each opportunity lost, the stakes will get higher, the scrutiny more intense.

Perhaps that’s why most athletes don’t really talk about being the first.

“Everyone tries to keep it for themself,” is how Hamelin described it. “It’s more quiet.”

But when it does happen, you’ll be able to hear the cheers from the Olympic Village, even from the one in Whistler, as 205 other Canadians feel just a touch lighter.

“Just the momentum for all the other athletes — a little less pressure on their shoulders (so they can) just compete after that,” Hamelin said.

The Levis, Quebec, native already feels some of that pressure.

In his second Olympics, Hamelin’s expected to contend for medals in all three of his individual events, plus lead the powerful relay team.

The short trackers harvested a disappointing four medals in Turin, and are being counted on to do more, this time.

“Four years ago I was a rookie,” Hamelin said. “Now I am the leader of the team. I will try to lead the group and show them how to do it.”

Winning the first home-ice Canadian gold would show them, all right.

If he wins the second, better still.

“I’ll be watching,” Hamelin said. “And if they do it before me, I’ll be glad for them.”


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