Road To The Olympic Games

Charles Hamelin uses video games to escape pressures of speed skating

When Olympic short-track speed skating champion Charles Hamelin isn't training or racing, chances are he's in front of a video game console.

'It helps me to focus,' says Olympic short track champion

Charles Hamelin uses video games as a way to free his mind from speedskating. (Peter Dejong/Canadian Press/Associated Press)

When Olympic short-track speed skating champion Charles Hamelin isn't training or racing, chances are he's in front of a video game console.

The 33-year-old from Sainte-Julie, Que., says it relaxes him.

"It helps me to focus on my skating when I need to and kind of forget about it when I'm back at the hotel room or when I'm back home," Hamelin said in an interview. "To make sure that I think about something else than only speed skating.

"Sometimes when you think too much about what you do, you can get burned out and not like it anymore. That's my way to free my mind and think about something completely different."

Avid gamer

Back from competing on the World Cup circuit in Asia, Hamelin will be training at home until the Olympic Games start Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Hamelin says he plays all kind of games, with first-person shooters like the "Battlefield" and "Call of Duty" series among his favourites. "Diablo 3," "World of Warcraft" and "Destiny" are also in his rotation, as are the latest "Super Mario" titles.

He games on his PC, PlayStation 4 and just got a Nintendo Switch. Most of the time he plays online, saying he enjoys the competition.

This week Hamelin is serving as the official ambassador for MIGS17, the 14th edition of the Montreal International Game Summit.

"I'm honoured to be there," he said.

Hamelin, who often takes a console on the road, has been gaming since he was a kid.

"On the short-track team, there's a lot of people gaming. And there's people who are gaming more than me," he said.

St-Gelais doesn't share gaming enthusiasm

Pyeongchang will be Hamelin's fourth Olympics.

He won gold in the 1,500 metres in 2014 in Sochi. Four years earlier in Vancouver, he was Canada's only multiple gold medallist, winning both the 500 metres and the 5,000-metre relay within a 30-minute time span.

In Turin in 2006, he won silver as a member of the 5,000-metre relay team.

While Hamelin is an avid gamer, he says partner and fellow speed skater Marianne St-Gelais does not share his enthusiasm.

"She is the opposite of a gamer, I would think," he said with a laugh. "Marianne will watch 10 movies before playing a video game with me."

She will play the Lego-themed video games with him, however.

He plans to take both the PS4 and Switch consoles to South Korea where the speed skating will be held at the Gangneung Ice Arena, some 60 kilometres from Pyeongchang.

Olympic swan song

He competed in the venue at a test event last year.

"The facility is great. The rink is awesome," he said.

And it should be rocking.

"They love [speed skating]," Hamelin said of South Koreans. "They don't love only the Korean skaters but they love the history of short-track and I'm a big part of it right now...They're going to want a big show and our goal is to give them the best show we can."

Hamelin says South Korea will likely mark his Olympic swan song.

"My mind is already ready to do something else after my skating career," he said.

Already planning for the future, he's involved with a company called Nagano Skate which markets both short and long-track speed skating equipment.

"I'm not that old but for a short-tracker I am kind of old," he said with a laugh.

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