Road To The Olympic Games

Charles Hamelin off to golden start at short track worlds

Canadian Charles Hamelin won gold in the men's 1,500-metre event Saturday at the ISU world short-track speed skating championships in Montreal.

Ste-Julie, Que. native wins men's 1,500m, Kim Boutin claims bronze in women's event

Charles Hamelin won the 1500-metre final race at the ISU world short-track speed skating championships in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Three days after declaring he still had what it takes to compete against the best speedskaters in the world, 33-year-old Charles Hamelin put his words into action.

The Canadian said Wednesday he was putting off retirement for at least one more year. On Saturday, Hamelin won gold in the men's 1,500-metre event at the ISU world short-track speedskating championships.

Canadian Charles Hamelin claims first place in 1500m speed skating championships in Montreal. 4:16

It was one of two medals for Canada. Kim Boutin won bronze in the women's 1,500-metre.

"I think the world understands now why I wanted to keep skating," said Hamelin. "People across Canada, Quebec and throughout the world understand my decision right now. They see what I'm still capable of at a world championship.

"[The other skaters] congratulate me and in their eyes I can see they're surprised."

The gold is Hamelin's 10th at the world championships and 33rd medal overall. He now has a five-point lead in the overall classification with one day of racing remaining.

"I don't know what's happening with him," joked Samuel Girard of his teammate. "He's always been good. He's never not been skating at that level. Charles will always be Charles Hamelin.

"He's an exceptional skater and he's proving all the doubters, everyone who said he's too old, that he's still one of the best."

Girard disqualified

Girard of Ferland-et-Boileau, Que., was disqualified from the final for impeding another skater.

Hamelin began the 1,500-metre in second place, behind Korea's Lim Hyo Jun. The Ste-Julie, Que., native fell to third after six laps. He jumped back into second with five laps remaining before powering his way into the lead with two laps to go.

Hamelin crossed the finish line first in two minutes 12.982.

Lim was second in 2:13.157 while Russia's Semen Elistratov was third in 2:13:312.

"I surprised even myself in that final," said Hamelin. "I have a chance to win, I told myself, before making my move with two laps to go. I felt really good today. I just had to be smart and manage my race.

"Mentally and physically I'm where I want to be right now."

Boutin comes in 3rd

Hamelin failed to qualify for the men's 500 final, finishing third in his semifinal.

Earlier, Boutin of Sherbrooke, Que., won bronze in the women's 1,500 before a sellout crowd of 4,500 at Montreal's Maurice Richard Arena.

Choi Min Jeong of Korea won gold in 2:23.351 with compatriot Shim Suk Hee second in 2:23.468.

Boutin, Canada's flag bearer at the Pyeongchang Winter Games closing ceremonies last month, was third in 2:23:592 for her first world championship medal.

The 23-year-old was in first place with five laps to go before Choi took the lead. Shim jumped into second place on the final lap, forcing Boutin to settle for third.

"I would have loved the silver and even gold, but I should have done a better job to protect my second place from Choi," said Boutin, who won a silver and two bronze medals in South Korea. "I still had energy left in my legs so it was a positioning thing.

"But I'm still happy with what I accomplished. These were some difficult races today."

'I gave everything I could'

Boutin was poised to medal in the women's 500. She led after two laps before falling while taking a turn. She finished last.

"I'm really disappointed and frustrated by that race," said Boutin, who's now fourth in the overall classification. "I really feel I could have won. It was an equipment issue and I lost my edge. I gave everything I could."

Jamie MacDonald of Fort St. James, B.C., finished fourth in the 500.

It's been a difficult world championship for Canadian Marianne St-Gelais. She fell in her 1,500 qualification heat Friday and again Saturday in her 500 semifinal, injuring her shoulder.

"I really didn't fall properly," said St-Gelais. "I knocked my head and broke my helmet. Hurt my shoulder. I'm disappointed, obviously. No concussion symptoms. I'm hoping to feel better tomorrow."

Both the Canadian women and men qualified for their respective relay finals, which take place Sunday.

The medals for the 1,000 races will also be handed out Sunday. St-Gelais, Boutin, MacDonald, Hamelin and Girard have all qualified for the quarter-finals.

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