MONTREAL – Charles Hamelin had his eyes wet after presenting a tribute video in which members of his family, past and present teammates and people from all walks of short track speed skating thanked him for his positive impact throughout a distinguished career.
Hamelin returned the favor when he spoke.
“Wow! Thank you. I’ll never be far,” said Hamelin, addressing the crowd present at the Maurice-Richard arena.
The “Locomotive de Sainte-Julie” finally returned to the station for the last time on Sunday. Hamelin and teammates Pascal Dion, Steven Dubois, Jordan Pierre-Gilles and Maxime Laoun won bronze in the 5,000 meter relay at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.
“Ultimately, the color of the medal didn’t matter,” Hamelin said. We lived the moments we wanted to live, with the crowd and the ‘boys’. Anyway, the color we wanted, we had it a few weeks ago in Beijing. »
The Canadian team then won gold in Hamelin’s last race at the Olympics.
Hamelin, who will celebrate his 38th birthday on April 14, made his World Cup debut in the fall of 2003. He has won six Olympic medals, 38 World Cup medals and 142 World Cup medals over a long career.
“Charles is a hard worker, he’s an ox in training,” said Dion. Everyone on the team learned a lot from him. We can only take inspiration from it. »
All members of the Canadian team have highlighted the impact Hamelin has had on their careers. Skaters from the Netherlands, South Korea and a few other countries joined the Canadian delegation on the ice at the start of Hamelin’s career celebrations.
“I didn’t expect that, to see them insist on coming with us to the podium. It touches me, said Hamelin. I know what is happening in Canada, that I had an influence here. But I think it made me realize that my impact was bigger than just in my country. »
After receiving a frame of a photo montage of his career highlights from Speed Skating Canada’s Executive Director, Susan Auch, and the Quebec Speed Skating Federation’s Executive Director, Robert Dubreuil, and then having received a shower of champagne courtesy of his teammates, Hamelin completed a final lap with his daughter Violette in his arms.
“I don’t know if she is fully aware of what happened. She may have flashes of the moment, but there will definitely be plenty of photos, Hamelin said of the moment shared with her soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter. She enjoyed receiving the love of the crowd, who were screaming for her dad and also for her. I think she is more popular than me! »
“I’ve been waiting to experience this with her for a long time and I can’t wait to continue my life with her and Gèn (his spouse Geneviève Tardif). I’m going to come see the ‘boys’, encourage them and see them win medals. »
Hamelin remains involved with speed skating equipment company Nagano Skate. The publication of an autobiography is also in his plans. Hamelin also said he was taking online courses to become a coach, but added that he was in no rush to return to the Maurice-Richard arena.
Before all that, Hamelin will be heading to Punta Cana, Mexico, next Saturday to catch some sun with the family. His legs will finally be able to relax after 20 years of pushing to weave through his rivals and be the first to the finish line.
Hamelin can hang up his skates with peace of mind. The last few months have shown that the next generation is promising within the Canadian short track speed skating team.
Dion, 27, became vice-world champion over the weekend. Dubois, 24, won three medals in Beijing, one of each color.
“We are not losing him. He will always be a friend,” said Dubois with his right arm over his teammate’s shoulders.
There will therefore remain a bit of Charles Hamelin behind the successes of the Canadian team for a long time to come.