Hamelin brothers come up short

By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency


Brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin race in the 1,500-m speed skating final Saturday at the Vancouver Olympic Games. They both missed the medals. (DANIEL MALLARD/QMI Agency)

VANCOUVER — It seemed all but certain that a Hamelin brother would win an Olympic medal Saturday night.

What was less certain was which Hamelin brother.

But the only certainty at the end of another night of Olympic short-track speed skating, another night to grab your heart and stomp on it, is that Korean Lee Su-Jung is the best in the world at this crazy sport. The fastest at 1,000 metres. The fastest the other night at 1,500 metres. Two gold medals.

And nothing for Charles Hamelin, nothing for Francois Hamelin. And shame on us — myself included — who thought one gold, maybe two, was not out of the question. Shame on us for not knowing that no one was going to beat Su-Jung at this distance, or almost any other distance.

There is a lot of talk right now about Canadians not winning the medals they were supposed to win at these Olympics, and the talk is legitimate.

There has been a lot of beating ourselves up over results that have not met expectations.

But on Saturday night at the Pacific Coliseum, where Roger Neilson once lifted a white towel on a hockey stick, neither of the Hamelin brothers threw in the towel.

Simply, athletically, they were close but not good enough.

This was not Denny Morrison performing way below his own capabilities. This was not Manny Osborne-Paradis falling in one race, scrambling in the other. This was not Mellisa Hollingsworth, picking the absolute worst time to be at her worst.

This was nothing for either Hamelin to be ashamed of.

That said, so many Canadians may view this differently. We saw Charles’ was on all those television commercials. He was, like a whole bunch of Canadians identified by the Olympic broadcast consortium as one who would Own the Podium.

But he has raced twice in the Games, and once came away terribly disapointed. Saturday night, it was hard to describe the ending as disappointing.

Unfortunate, maybe. But not a choke job. Not a skater leaving anything to chance.

The two Hamelin brothers made their way to the final, through the heats, the quarterfinals, the semifinals, one fall and an official’s decision.

And all the while, the brothers seemed less than Jung-Su. All the while, they seemed unable to have an answer for the American Apolo Anton Ohno, the passing machine, who has a silver and bronze at these Olympics, now seven medals in all.

The short-track speed skating team was projected to win five or six medals at these Games by the COC. So far, they have one medal, and that one was a surprise silver won by Marianne St-Gelais. Maybe they will get more in relays. Maybe they will get another when Charles races the 500 metres. In this sport, there is little separating maybe and maybe not.

But in a final with five skaters Saturday night, with the Canadian crowd electric at the PNE, Charles led for half the race with Francois right behind them.

For a while, it looked like gold-silver, not 4-5.

And maybe as they said they went out too fast. And maybe it wouldn’t have mattered.

Saturday was Canada’s first day without a medal at these Olympic Games.

That little bit of momentum is halted, but not because the athletes failed to perform. Charles wasn’t crying, wasn’t saying he let himself or anyone else down.

He actually called it a good day.

He and his brother went for it. And what’s so wrong with that?

POLL