A powerful 10-member squad was nominated to the Canadian Olympic team by the sport's national governing body on Thursday in Montreal, becoming the first Canadian athletes to be selected for Sochi.
The list also includes Olympic relay gold medallist Olivier Jean and two-time silver medallist Marianne St-Gelais.
“Speed Skating Canada is very proud to be the first national sport federation to nominate our short-track athletes contending for a spot on Canada’s Olympic team,” said Marie Claire Rouleau, president of Speed Skating Canada. “I know that our athletes, coaches and support team are looking forward to competing in Sochi and I am sure that their exceptional performances leading up to the Games will prepare them well to lead our Olympic team to podium success.”
Hamelin, who will once again be expected to guide the national team to Olympic glory, has been the clear star for the last several years. A Canadian staple since 2005, Hamelin earned a silver medal in the men’s 5,000-metre relay at the 2006 Turin Olympics. The Levis, Que., native then won gold in the 500m — his signature competition — at the Vancouver Games four years later, and also led the men’s 5,000m relay team to the top of the podium.
Hamelin has been even more dominant at world championships, reaching the podium 25 times in his career while winning eight gold medals during an eight-year stretch.
The 29-year-old did receive a scare at the Canadian trials in Montreal earlier this month. Hamelin was cruising through his events until a collision into the wall with two competitors during a men’s 1,000m semifinal stretched a ligament in his left ankle. But he expects to be ready for the upcoming season leading into Sochi.
Hamelin also suffered through several nagging injuries in the 2012 season. Still, he’s considered a legitimate medal threat in the 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m and 5,000m relay.
Jean overcomes sabotage
Jean has had a unique journey to Sochi since winning gold as part of the men’s 5,000m relay team in Vancouver.
The 29-year-old Lachenaie, Que., native has won four world championship gold medals, including a 500m win over teammate Hamelin at the 2012 event in Shanghai.
But his winning ways were interrupted by a bizarre incident that took place at the 2011 world championships in Warsaw, where Jean was the victim of sabotage.
Under the instructions of then U.S. coach Jae Su Chun, skater Simon Cho admitted that he tampered with Jean’s skates, forcing the Canadian team to settle for bronze. Cho, an Olympic medallist, received a two-year ban from the International Skating Union on Sunday and will miss the Sochi Games.
St-Gelais, Maltais to lead women’s team
The women’s team will be led by St-Gelais and Valerie Maltais.
St-Gelais earned silver medals in the women’s 500m and the 3,000m relay team in Vancouver. The Roberval, Que., skater also shared one of the more memorable moments of the 2010 Games when she and boyfriend Hamelin embraced in a kiss following his 500 gold-medal win.
Over the last four years, St-Gelais has consistently been one of the best women short-track skaters, claiming seven world championship medals, including four silvers.
Maltais, from La Baie, Que., is one of the youngest members of the national team. But the 23-year-old has already made a huge impact on the international scene, specifically at the 2012 world championships in Shanghai.
It was in China where she dominated the field in the 3,000m superfinal en route to a gold medal. Maltais also claimed bronze in a photo finish in the 1,000m event. Her efforts eventually garnered a silver medal in the event’s overall standings.