February 22, 2018

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St-Gelais,Hamelin ready to cede short-track leadership to Boutin, Girard

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of - Life changed for short-track speedskaters Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver when they became a sensation with a track-side victory kiss.

Hamelin had just won gold in the 500-metre race and their spontaneous reaction ended up having a huge impact on their lives.

"From one day to the next, everything changed," the 27-year-old St-Gelais recalled this week at the 2018 Winter Games. "I went to the Games as a nobody, with nothing to show on my resume. I came back to Montreal with two (silver) medals and it was crazy.

"The Vancouver Games were a great showcase for us. We made a name for ourselves individually and as a couple. It gave us a certain notoriety and we became the face of short-track."

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PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of - Life changed for short-track speedskaters Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver when they became a sensation with a track-side victory kiss.

Hamelin had just won gold in the 500-metre race and their spontaneous reaction ended up having a huge impact on their lives.

Canada's Charles Hamelin kisses his girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais after winning the gold medal in the men's 500 meter final in the short track speedskating competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, Friday, February 26, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada's Charles Hamelin kisses his girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais after winning the gold medal in the men's 500 meter final in the short track speedskating competition at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, Friday, February 26, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

"From one day to the next, everything changed," the 27-year-old St-Gelais recalled this week at the 2018 Winter Games. "I went to the Games as a nobody, with nothing to show on my resume. I came back to Montreal with two (silver) medals and it was crazy.

"The Vancouver Games were a great showcase for us. We made a name for ourselves individually and as a couple. It gave us a certain notoriety and we became the face of short-track."

Eight years later, the couple from Ste-Julie, Que., are at their last Olympics, but their successors on the Canadian team are already in place in the form of Kim Boutin of Sherbrooke, Que., and Samuel Girard of Ferland-et-Boilleau, Que.

"I really wish them well," said St-Gelais, a native of Saint-Felicien, Que. "It's time for the face of short-track to change.

"I loved filling that role, but change will be good. Samuel and Kim are ready. They have strong values. They've learned a lot from the veterans. They're ready to take command of the team and it's super-reassuring for someone who is on the way out like me to know that our sport is in good hands. I hope I can share a podium with Kim. That would make it even more special."

Boutin led the charge this season with three gold, three silver and bronze medal in World Cup action. But, as for becoming the new team leader, the 23-year-old prefers not to look too far ahead.

"I try not to imagine what will happen in the future like that," said Boutin. "I like more just to see where the road takes me because these are things we don't know and I don't want to have that in my head right from the start."

Girard, who won World Cup medals in all three colours, seems more at ease about taking over the role 33-year-old Hamelin will leave behind.

"It's part of your role as an athlete," the 21-year-old said. "I don't want to keep that for myself, I want to share it with others.

"I'm ready to take on, not the pressure, but the prestige that comes with winning medals. That would also mean that I had a good Games. If it comes, all the better, but if it doesn't, that won't affect me either because that's not the main goal."

For now, Boutin and Girard are at their first Olympics and have Hamelin and St-Gelais to help them through the experience.

"Me, I know what to expect, but you can see how excited he is," Hamelin said of Girard. "It's fun to see.

"I'm reliving my first Olympics through him. Here, the attention is on Samuel and me, Marianne and Kim. We couldn't ask for better in terms of visibility for our sport."

Short-track kicks off Saturday at the Gangneung Ice Palace with Hamelin, Girard and Pascal Dion of Montreal on the ice. Hamelin, who picked up three gold and a silver at three previous Games, will be gunning for a fifth Olympic medal to join Marc Gagnon and Francois-Louis Tremblay for the most by a Canadian short-track skater.

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