The members of the Hamelin family from Canada have already left their mark on the world of short track speed skating, and it is not yet over. A new season is starting right now in Budapest, with the last Olympics ahead for elder brother Charles and his long-term girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais. Leaving sport manager father Yves back at home this time and Marianne being busy, the brothers, Charles and Francois still did not hesitate to cover up what they mean for each other, and how they are looking forward to the upcoming season, side by side.
“It is pretty simple: whenever we need each other, we know we are there for each other. This is the situation with Charles, but also his girlfriend, Marianne”, Francois, aged 30 started. “Hopefully we don’t need to put each other back on track, but if we need someone, the person is there. This always brings the peace of mind”, Charles continued. “We have been training together for 22 years, so I just have to look at Frank, and I know if he wants to be with himself only, or he needs people around and pump him up to stay focused and positive in a difficult situation. There’s no barrier between us. Frank always has a good word for me, and I will have the same for him”, he explained.
And this is not just empty talk, they can really count on each other in the toughest times, as well. “When I fell in Sochi in the semi-final for the relay team event, it was one of the most difficult moments for me. It wasn’t just for my event, but for the team event. Everyone was there for me, but Charles really knew what to say and I knew it was going to be okay just by the way he was looking at me. He was sad, but he was not mad at me. It could have happened to him, it could have happened to anyone else”, recalled Francois the worst moment when he really needed the brotherly love and support.
But he is also giving his best, when Charles has a worse period. “There was a point for me last season when it was difficult for me, too. I was falling a lot and Frank wasn’t even there in Asia with us. We talked on messenger, and just via that he put me back on the right track. He knew what to tell me, it went straight to my mind, and he was the guy who helped me to refocus the next day”, the 32-year-old shared the moment when he needed his brother the most.
But important moments are not only bad moments, Charles and Francois are ready to share their happiest times with each other and their loved ones. Thinking of their most memorable moment, they just looked at each other with bright faces, smiling. “When we shared the top of the podium in the relay event in Vancouver, that was our greatest moment as brothers”, Francois said with no doubts. “Our family was there on the stands too, we were home at the Games and it is impossible to top the feeling we had there. We were pretty much rock stars… For an hour”, he joked. “Going off the ice they were screaming for us to come back, it was unreal.”
But precious ice-warm stories have one more character for the Hamelins: Charles’ fiancée, Marianne St-Gelais has belonged to the family in the last couple of years. “If you know her, you love her, she is like that”, said the elder Hamelin brother, with his face lightning up fast. “When she became family member, everyone was really happy. And when you are with her, you are going to have more energy, just because you are with her. She brings everyone up.”
And listening to Charles it is obvious: nothing has changed between them since their stolen moment with the iconic kiss they shared after his individual victory on 500m in Vancouver. “After I won, I was looking around on the stands to feel the energy of the crowd, and by luck I just saw Marianne. I looked at her, I was like Heey! She went down the stairs and I felt like I need to see her. We met on the board and that was it. We had that moment. It was spontaneous, we wanted to have that moment together” – he remembered with happy nostalgic feelings. “We realised maybe five minutes after, when all the crowd, all people reacted. We were like… okay maybe… we got caught?” – he laughed.
Now, almost 8 years after this and the brothers’ relay victory in front of home crowd at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, four years after Charles’ victory on 1500m in Sochi, with 10 world championship gold medals for the elder, and one for the younger brother behind, new challenge is calling the Hamelins. With 137 days left until the kick-off of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, the worlds’ bests are gathering for the first qualifying world cup in Budapest. Even though they are struggling with jetlag a bit, Team Canada has already been over the first training.
“It is the first world cup of the season, it is quite exciting because this is the first time when we can see every country and race against them. We will see how they’ve improved and what they are doing differently from last season. We would like to analyse everything, then go to World Cup number 2, and improve from what we did at the first one”, Charles said. And as they have fond memories of training camps in Hungary before, they are happy to return to Budapest. “It is a good start for us, it is fun to come back here and we will try to keep the good vibes of the city throughout this weekend”, he added.
And they need a good start for sure, as their last season did not really go the way they had planned: if they would like to achieve significant results at the Olympics, they need to get back their dynamism. “The base of the training is still kind of the same, but we have made some changes. We also have to take into consideration that being as successful as Charles was 5 years ago will be really hard to do this time. There are a lot of good skaters now, a lot of good countries came up to a good level, so it would be very impressive if someone could be as dominant as Charles was 5 years ago. It’s a new era.”, Francois pointed out. “I think there’s much more competition and this is much more fun for the crowd. It puts more pressure on us as well, on every team to be the best, and it will make us work harder. It is harder and harder to be the best year by year, and it is good for the sport”, he added. “If it was about 4-5 years ago, I would have said maybe 2-3 guys who were really competitive, but now there’s like 10 or 12 people who can not only make the final, but win. The field is really tough”, Charles agreed.
But they will undoubtedly do their super best to grab the gold in PyeongChang and enjoy every minute of the road to the Olympic Games, as Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais are planning to retire from competitive skating at the end of this season.