Short-track star Charles Hamelin makes sure he’s having fun when skating fast

Short-track star Charles Hamelin makes sure he’s having fun when skating fast

Canadian speedskating legend Charles Hamelin doesn’t hesitate for a second when he’s asked about what being an athlete has taught him.

“Sport has brought me a lot of life skills,” says Hamelin.

“It’s not just about the sport. It’s about anything you do in your life — your energy and what you want to achieve,” he says.

“Maybe you aren’t going to win a gold medal or be the best lawyer in the city or whatever, but be the best you can be.

“Sport has taught me to do my best at whatever I do.”

And how. First, there’s the fact Hamelin was Canada’s only multiple gold medalist at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. (He won gold in both the 500-metre and the 5,000-metre races.) Then there’s the fact he won them both within a half-hour span.

Calm, cool, collected? Indeed. “Fun is a big part of it,” he says.

“I am having fun. If you have fun at what you do, it doesn’t seem like a job.”

Then again, Hamelin says he and his family have always loved sports. “Some of the earliest memories I have are of watching my parents do activities. My father was, and still is, a big runner. He biked, too. He was always training for something,” he says.

“My mother, too. She was always training in a gym or running or at home doing aerobic exercise with DVDs.

“As soon as we were old enough to do sports, we were involved, too.”

Baseball came first for Hamelin, and then soccer. But then Hamelin’s middle brother Francois (“Frank,” Charles calls him) asked to try speedskating. He was only 5-years-old at the time, but his request changed both his and his sibling’s lives.

“I was 8, and I wasn’t doing it at the time because I had other activities,” recalls Charles. “But when I tried it during Christmas and Halloween, I asked my father and mother, ‘Can I start next year with Frank?’”

By the following year, 1994, all three brothers — Charles, François, and the youngest Mathieu — were speedskating. (François is also heading to Sochi, his second Olympics, to compete on the short track team with Charles.)

“When you’re young and you start a sport, it just makes everything easier,” Charles says. “You get better really fast because you’re young and you adapt and you can learn new skills faster.”

He knows what he’s talking about. By the time he was 16, he had qualified for the World Junior Championship. The national team was next.

(Here’s some trivia for you: He always listens to the band Linkin Park before he competes; he’s also a fan of Fall Out Boy, System of a Down, and My Chemical Romance.)

Step by step, he worked his way to being among the best in the world. His secret? Break down a big goal into little pieces, he says.

“When we finished the Olympics in Vancouver, if I’d had to focus right away on Sochi and make it a daily thing in my mind, I would have been really stressed,” he says.

“But I was not thinking about that. Everything was about short goals, short times. A little objective or goal to achieve every day or week during practice.”

That’s advice for everyone, whatever their goal may be.

“Don’t think too far ahead,” Charles says.

“Just do what you have to do; achieve those little goals every day. They all lead to the big goal, and by then you’ll be ready to give it your best.”

Images of Charles Hamelin © Canadian Olympic Committee

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