Short-track speed skating star Charles Hamelin wants another crack at Olympic gold.
The 29-year-old said Tuesday he will continue skating for at least another four years to try to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“I’ll go four more years,” said Hamelin, who has three gold and a silver medal from the last three Winter Games. “I’ll train as hard as I can.
“I want to make sure I go as far as I can. I never stopped getting better every year in my career, so I want to see how far I can go.”
Hamelin, who turns 30 on April 14, will be 33 when the next Winter Olympics rolls around, but feels he will still be in top form. His father Yves Hamelin, who is also Canada’s head coach, agrees.
“It’s a strong commitment — four years,” said Yves Hamelin. “We have very few athletes who keep going until 33 or 34 years old, so its a good surprise.
“We knew that Charles would have to think about it, but Charles is in his prime. He feels that he still has a lot to give to the sport.”
Hamelin and the rest of Canada’s team from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia were back at their training base at the Maurice Richard Arena, where they will skate in the world championships this weekend.
Only three weeks after Sochi, the Canadian team will be looking for redemption after winning only three Olympic medals, well short of their expectations.
The field has skaters from 31 countries, including 11 of the 13 medallists from Sochi. The roughly 4,800-seat arena is sold out for all three days of competition, which begins Friday.
The Canadian men’s team has Hamelin, of Ste-Julie, Que., as well as Olympic bronze medallist Charle Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., and veteran Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., racing individual distances. Michael Gilday of Yellowknife and Charles’ brother Francois Hamelin were added for the relay.
The women’s squad — relay silver medallists in Sochi — has Marianne St-Gelais of St. Felicien, Que., Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., and Marie-Eve Drolet of Laterriere, Que., in individual events, adding Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C. and Jessica Gregg of Edmonton for the relays.
For Charles Hamelin, it will be another showdown with South Korean-born Ahn Hyun-Soo, who appeared at the Sochi Games skating for Russia under the name Victor An and won three gold medals and a bronze.
“Of course, the rivalry will continue here in Montreal,” said Hamelin. “He’s a really strong skater.
“I love racing against him because the races are all exciting. We want to give a good show to the people in the stands and me against him is always a good race.”
Hamelin may have surprised himself by winning the 1,500-metre event in Sochi in his first race of the Games, but then saw his goal of sweeping all four men’s short-track golds dashed when he fell during the 500-metre and 1,000-metre heats.
The Canadian men lost the relay when his brother Francois wiped out on a marker disc on the race course.
Hamelin’s goal for the world championship is to win the overall title awarded to the skater who does best in the three Olympic distances as well as the 3,000-metres.
He decided to continue his career after talking it over with Derrick Campbell, his coach for the last eight years.
“That discussion really helped me make a clear decision on what I wanted to do,” he said. “Of course I wanted better results in the 1,000 and 500 (in Sochi), but short track is like that.
“It’s part of the sport. I want to improve all aspects of my skating and be a better skater in four years. It would be an honour to represent Canada again. It’ll be my fourth Olympics. I believe I can do it.”
Skating in front of a home crowd should be all the Canadians need to be motivated so soon after the Olympics, but it may be harder for visiting skaters.
Arianna Fontana of Italy wants to show that the silver and two bronze medals she won in Sochi were no fluke.
“It was hard to concentrate and get focused again because, after the Games, you just want to relax,” said Fontana. “It was a long time in Sochi and it was really intense.
“But I still want to do good here. I want to get back on the podium.”
She said there may be some surprises at the world championships.
“It will be hard because a lot of athletes in Sochi didn’t do what they expected to do, so here in this competition they will try to have their revenge,” she said.
It is the first world championships in Montreal since 2002. Hamelin, a junior at the time, worked that event placing marker discs on the course.
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