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2014 Olympic profile: Charles Hamelin

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According to www.travelpress.com on Saturday, short track speed skater Charles Hamelin of Levis, Quebec was recognized as the Air Canada athlete of the year.

Hamelin, who won two gold medals in short track speed skating at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and a silver medal in the men's 5000m relay at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, has the potential to win four more medals at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. At 29 years of age, Hamelin is clearly the face of the Canadian men's short track speed skating team, and is trying to follow in the footsteps of short track speed skating legend Marc Gagnon of Chicoutimi, Quebec, who won Olympic medals at three consecutive Olympic Winter Games from 1994-2002.

Here is my recent interview with Hamelin.

Assess your World Cup season, where you won seven races. Did you meet your own expectations?

Actually, the first four World Cups went really, really good for me. There was some really good results, that put a lot of confidence in me for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in two months.

The last World Cup was in November, almost three months prior to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. What will you be doing between now and then to prepare?

We will have a lot of training. We are doing a lot of laps on the ice, and we've been skating a lot. It's going to be heavy (until the end of December). There's two trainings a day, six times a week. After that, it will be more intense and more fast. We will make sure we are ready to race the distances for the Olympics.

The Olympics is a family affair for you. Your father Yves is your coach. Your brother Francois and girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais are also Olympic short track speed skating medalists. How meaningful is it that the people who are very close to you will be in Sochi with you?

There's nothing that can help me more than that to have those guys with me. When you go to an Olympics, you never know how it's going to be during the Olympics. Sometimes you have good moments. Sometimes bad moments. If there's something wrong that's happening, I can go talk to Marianne or Frank (Francois) or Yves. It's just easy to go and talk to them. They are going to help me. They are going to bring back me right on track. If I'm too happy, they will bring back me and make sure I'm ready to focus on what's next. If I'm sad and disappointed, they help me bring a better side of myself and make sure I'm ready to race again. It's very helpful to have those guys with me around the Olympics and for them it's the same. If they have something to ask me they can, and it's going to be easy for them.

What is it like to be a medal contender in all of the disciplines at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi?

I had pressure in Vancouver already. I know what it is. It may be a little more easier for me to take care of everything, and make sure I'm ready to race for medals in every distance. With the confidence I have had since the beginning of the season in World Cup, there's no worry that I can't win medals in all disciplines and even the relay.

Is there one particular event you feel the most comfortable with?

Actually the one where I feel the best is the 1000m. It's the distance actually I like the most and it was the distance I feel the best during the World Cups. The 1000m is my distance right now.

One of your biggest rivals over the years has been American Apolo Anton Ohno, who has won eight career Olympic medals. He is now retired and working in television. What are your overall comments about Ohno's career and what he has done for short track speed skating over the years?

Apolo Anton Ohno was a great skater. He showed he was able to expect a medal every year. When he was on the ice, he was a tough rival to beat. He started to be good really young, and was able to keep his racing skills and strength over the years. In Vancouver he reached the final in every distance, and won medals in most of them. He was one of the oldest out there. He was able to race against the younger people. He had nothing to fear and was a smart skater. I think he's someone that I look up to and try to do what he was doing during his races.

Who do you believe will be your greatest rivals in Sochi?

There's two names that come up-- American J.R. Celski and the Russian Victor Ahn. They were racing really, really well in the World Cups too. They will be difficult at the Olympics and be hard to beat. There will be some exciting races to race against them. I want that excitement to race against them, and make sure we deliver exciting races for people who are watching in the stands and for people who are watching on TV.

The South Koreans and the Chinese are also difficult, correct?

The Koreans are the Koreans and will always be difficult. But so far, Ahn and Celski stand out a little bit more from the others. But the Chinese, Koreans, the skaters from the Netherlands, and other Americans and Russians are great racers and tough people to beat.

What are your goals at Sochi?

My goals are to bring back two medals--one gold from the individual races, and one gold from the relay. With those two medals, my Olympics will be complete. I will be really, really happy from the Olympics with those two medals. I am going into Sochi with the expectation to reach each final and when I reach the final, my goal is to win the gold. If I have more, I'll win more, but my main goal is to bring back two medals.

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