Canada's Charles Hamelin wins gold in 1,500-metre
There were 13 and a half laps for Charles Hamelin to negotiate on Monday on his way to providing Canada with its second gold medal of these Winter Games.
There are many more laps remaining over the next week in this roller derby world of short-track speed skating and three more shots at medals for an athlete who is the perfect blend of power and poise.
And if the dominating win in the men's 1,500-metre event was the precursor what is to come for the 29-year-old French Canadian, we may be in for a breathtaking record medal run.
If Hamelin keeps up the pace and killer mentality he showed in winning the third Olympic gold medal of his career, he could leave here as the most decorated Canadian winter athlete of all time.
"Every day I am on the ice, I want to win gold," Hamelin said after Monday's tour de force victory in the distance that was once seen as his weakest event. "Of course I want to be on the podium again, but this is short track and it's a tough sport."
Here's all you need to know about Hamelin and a quest that could well have him leaving here as Canada's virtuoso story of Sochi 2014: He talks about the disappointment of Vancouver four years ago -- and he won two gold medals.
He'll get the chance to equal and then surpass that total if he shows similar drive in the 500 and 1,000-metre events as well as the 5,000-metre relay. Hamelin will be high on the list of contenders in each of those, all the more reason that Monday's slightly surprising start to his latest Olympic odyssey was so significant.
"Compared to Vancouver, he's just a machine," Hamelin's coach, Derrick Campbell said. "In the past, Charles could get rattled. But (Monday) he stayed really calm really composed.
"He's in great shape, he's mentally sharp. Charles is really, really tough."
That toughness came in handy in his first effort here as he breezed through the qualifying round and semi-final then seized control with the medal on the line. He was never worse than third in the race, leading for most of it, including the final, scintillating six laps.
And now with the confidence that his fitness is at a high, he will proceed to add to his medal haul. With Monday's acquisition he now has three gold medals in his Olympic career tying him for the most of any Canadian in an individual event at a Winter Games.
"I've been working so hard for this day for the last four years," Hamelin said. "I'm glad it paid off."
Hamelin said that after Vancouver, he altered his training regimen. Two-a-day sessions were added and he expanded to 11 months of full-on preparations.
"We knew the 1,500 could be a reality this time and he had a good, clear reading of the race," said Hamelin's father and team leader of the Canadian contingent, Yves. "He has set his own mindset about the 1,500. Tactics had always been a little bit of an issue for Charles.
"This year his strategy was to be in the lead and force others to react to his actions."
As the short track competition continues here, the momentum of the Hamelin story and his growing Olympic legend figures to captivate Canadians. But his short-track teammates are already aware of his influence, both on the sport and in their tight-knit community.
"He's serious in what he's doing," said Valerie Maltais. "For me, he's a good example of what is a great champion. He's always there doing his own thing, but if you ask a question he's going to take time to answer you.
"He sets a good example. He's a great champion."
And if the form he showed on Monday is any indication, he may just be getting started.
"He's getting closer in the 1,500, but he's stronger in the 500 and the 1,000," his father Yves said. "It's going to be fun to watch."
Charles Hamelin had a busy victory lap after winning gold Monday at the Iceberg Palace.
There were coaches to catch up with and embrace, his parents and fellow teammates. But Canada’s newest golden boy saved the best stop for last.
Waiting at the boards was his long-time girlfriend and fellow Canadian Olympic short tracker Marianne Ste-Gelais. And you couldn’t wipe the smile off her face an hour after the race.
“I’m feeling so proud of him, he deserves it,” said Ste-Gelais, who earlier had advanced in her heat of the women’s 500 metres and in the women’s relay. “He’s trained so hard for that. He’s been through so much between Vancouver and Torino. It’s kind of redemption now.”
Ste-Gelais sees first-hand the dedication Hamelin consistently shows.
“It was a beautiful race,” Ste-Gelais said, a smile still pasted on her face. “He took the lead with six laps to go and he had, like, a perfect pace.
“He’s just a good athlete. He was focusing on what he has to focus on. He had expectations when we left Montreal. For sure he can (win) more gold medals. I know how he trains. He showed me with the 1,500 that he’s going to be stronger with the 1,000.
“The 1,000 is his distance. He likes to race it. He’s good at it and he’s never won an Olympic medal in the 1,000. That’s the one he wants the most.”
And what about the winning embrace at the end?
“I was really happy he did the big circle before coming to me,” Ste-Gelais said. “He had his moment on the ice and then the kiss with me at the end.”
CHECK OUT CANADA'S MEDAL WINNERS
Will Hamelin end up being the most decorated Canadian Winter Olympian?