Speed-skating brothers miss medals

By QMI Agency


Brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin show their dejection after they finished fourth and fifth and missed the medals in the 1,500-m speed skating final Saturday at the Vancouver Olympic Games. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI Agency)

VANCOUVER — Canadian short-track speed skating star Charles Hamelin had the world record, the crowd and home-ice advantage on his side in the men’s 1,000 metre final Saturday.

But, ultimately, he didn’t have the legs.

Both Charles and his younger brother Francois could taste a medal at the Pacific Coliseum with about two laps to go. But a late surge by a pair of Koreans, Lee Jung-Su and Lee Ho-Suk, as well as American superstar Apolo Ohno, resulted in Charles, a star on the World Cup circuit, fading to fourth. Francois was fifth.

“We went out a little too fast,” said Charles. “The crowd got us going, (but) we didn’t have anything left at the end.”

Late in te race, the rest of the field turned on the jets. Ohno made a move on the outside to pass the Montreal-based brothers, and the Koreans went inside.

The win was Jung-Su’s second gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics after winning the 1,500 earlier in the week.

The atmosphere was electric inside the Pacific Coliseum prior to the final, with fans chanting “Go Canada Go!”, followed by screams of “USA! USA!”, in support of Ohno.

But it was a night the Koreans dominated, as Jung-Su and Ho-Suk stalked the rest of the field for most of the race, and sat fourth and fifth in the opening laps, biding their time, before seeing an opportunity as the event wound down and grabbing it.

But with the bronze medal, Ohno made history, becoming the most decorated American athlete at the Winter Olympics. Heading into Saturday night’s event, he had two gold, two silver and two bronze. Now he has seven. The great speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden had five golds each, while Blair also had a silver. And Ohno’s status as an American sporting legend continues to grow.

Still, Ohno was not overwhelmed by his achievement. He wanted the gold.

“I didn’t come here to break records,” he said.

Ohno, 27, is a star that transcends short-track skating. After winning the gold medal in the 1,500 metres at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, his popularity took off to the point where, following the 2006 Turin Games where he won a gold and two bronze medals, he took a break from skating, signed with a talent agency and started concentrating on acting.

His status as an American icon reached an even higher level in 2007 when he partnered with Julianne Hough to win the hit television show ‘Dancing with the Stars.’

As for the Koreans this season, it’s been all about consistency. Jung-Su has dominated the World Cup, and is ranked No. 1 in both the 1,000 and 1,500.

For Charles, all is not lost at these Games. His best event of the season, the 500, starts Wednesday. The 25-year-old is the defending world champion in that event, and is ranked No. 1 on the World Cup circuit.

“We’re still proud, this was a good day,” he said. “This was the toughest field I’ve ever skated in.”

The first quarterfinal of the night featured Ohno and three Canadians, although only one competes for Canada: Charles. Both Tyson Heung (Germany) and Nicolas Bean (Italy) were born in Canada. Hamelin and Ohno breezed to the semi, finishing 1-2.

The women’s 1,500 was won by Yang Zhou of China with Montreal’s Tania Vicent, at 34, the grande dame of women’s short track, finishing last in the final. Zhou beat out a pair of South Koreans for the top spot on the podium. Lee Eun-Byul was second and Park Seung-Hi was third. Meng Wang of China, a triple medallist from the 2006 Turin Olympics, was involved in an accident in the semis.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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