Short trackers win three medals

Double-gold evening for Charles Hamelin

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


Canada's Charles Hamelin led the short-track team to gold and bronze medal on Friday. (Daniel Mallard/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER ó Canadaís menís team won the gold medal in the 5,000-metre relay Friday night, capping a three-medal haul on the last night of short-track speed skating.

Canada edged Korea in a thrilling race, setting off a wild celebration at the Pacific Coliseum. The U.S. won the bronze.

The night, though, belonged to Canada, and its leader, Charles Hamelin of Levis, Que.

For Hamelin and his girlfriend, Marianne St-Gelais, the Olympics began and ended the same way ó with a medal, and a kiss.

Ten days ago, on her birthday, St-Gelais captured the hearts of Canadians with a surprise silver in short-trackís 500-metre event, the first to congratulate her a beaming Hamelin.

Friday night, before another screaming capacity crowd, Hamelin returned the favour, not once, but twice. After he won the menís 500, St-Gelais climbed down from her seat to plant one on the lips of Canadaís newest gold medallist.

The two Quebecors locked in an embrace on the padded wall surrounding the track as the crowd roared, the monkey finally off the back of a Canadian short-track team that has underachieved at these Games.

Toss in the surprise bronze won by Francois-Louis Tremblay, aided by yet another one of those crazy short-track crashes, then the wild gold in the relay, and the trip back to Quebec will be much easier to take for a team now packing five medals in its luggage.

It didnít come easy, though.

Hamelin was actually in second place on the final turn in the 500, when leader Si-Bak Sung of Korea and Tremblay crashed.

American Apolo Anton Ohno crossed the finish line in second, but was disqualified for interference, giving Hamelin the gold, Tremblay the bronze.

In replays Ohno could be seen giving Tremblay a nudge with his hand, causing the chain reaction crash.

The gold should make up for what would have been a disappointing Games for Hamelin, Canadaís top short tracker. Heíd failed to hit the podium in the 500 and the 1,500.

Itís the first individual Olympic medal for the 26-year-old, whose best finish in Turin was fourth. Since then, Hamelinís been a dominant figure on the world stage, regularly claiming hardware at world championships and World Cups.

Canadaís short-trackers still fell short of the six medals projected here, but with five at least theyíre in the ball park.

The menís relay gold, won by Hamelin, his brother Francois, Tremblay, and Olivier Jean, trumps the silver won by the women.

The men led much of the way, fighting off a furious charge by the Koreans and avoiding the spills that can be disastrous.

Following the race, the lads skated a raucous victory lap, then came out for an encore, the obligatory Canadian flag in tow and the crowd roaring its approval.

There was less suspense in the womenís 1,000, as none of the three Canadians ó Kalyna Roberge, Jessica Gregg and Tania Vicent ó made it to the final.

Vicent, a 17-year veteran of the national team skating in her last Olympic race, was disqualified in her quarter-final, ending her hopes of capturing at least one individual medal.

Vicent has three career medals from the relay, including a silver at these Games.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

POLL