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Hamelin wins 1,500-metre title at world short-track championships

The Canadian Press

3/14/2014 4:38:20 PM

MONTREAL -- Charles Hamelin is confident that he won't stop at just one gold medal at the world short-track speedskating championships.

Three weeks after winning gold in the 1,500 metres at the Sochi Olympics, Hamelin did it again Friday as he cruised to the win in the opening event at the Maurice Richard Arena.

The 1,500 used to be the weakest event for the Ste-Julie, Que., skater, but now he seems to own the distance as he easily finished ahead of Han Tianyu of China and bronze medallist Park Se Yeong of South Korea.

Earlier this week, the 29-year-old Hamelin announced that he will continue to skate at least four more years until the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

"In the 1,500 metres, every time I go on the podium now it proves that the work I've done in the last four years has really paid off," he said. "It's proof that I'm improving year after year.

"That's a big part of why I wanted to continue for four more years. You can see I'm still strong. After a big event like Sochi, I was able to come back and refocus on what I need to do here. I'm ready."

Now he hopes to avoid the bad luck that followed his Olympic gold.

In Sochi, he inexplicably fell in the heats of both the 500 and 1,000-metre events, dashing his hopes of sweeping the individual distances.

He said the world championships are different because, instead of waiting a day or two between skates like at the Olympics, he will be back on the track Saturday for the 500 metres and the men's relay heats and again on Sunday for the 1,000, the 3,000, and, he hopes, the relay final.

"Momentum is a big part of it and right now, it's on my side," he said. "I had a great race and I know I'm strong in the 500 and 1,000 metres."

Hamelin's goal is to win the overall title, which goes to the skater who does best cumulatively in the individual events. He has come second for that honour twice, but has never won it.

He said the first rule is to avoid a disqualification in any race.

The large crowd of mostly school children in the stands was worried that might happen when, halfway through the race, Hamelin nearly crashed into a South Korean. He managed to stay upright and then pass Han on the final lap to claim the win. Race officials did not call a foul.

"He passed me on the outside and came back really quickly in front of me," said Hamelin. "He was one or two centimetres from hitting my blades.

"It could have been a disaster for me, but I was able to control myself and not push too hard or lose too much speed. For him, the race was kind of over. It was a scary moment in the race."

Hamelin's biggest rival in recent years, five-time overall world champion Victor An of Russia, formerly known as Ahn Hyun-Soo of South Korea, never mounted a challenge and finished fourth. An won three golds and a bronze in Sochi.

Wu Dajing of China was fifth ahead of South Koreans Lee Han-Bin and Sin Da Woon.

Olivier Jean of Lachenaie, Que., and Charle Cournoyer of Boucherville, Que., were eliminated in the semifinals.

South Korea swept the podium in the women's 1,500.

Shim Suk Hee finished first ahead of Kim Alang and Park Seung-Hi.

Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., was caught at the finish line by Park and settled for fourth.

Marianne St-Gelais lost in the semifinals while Marie-Eve Drolet was beaten in the heats and was classified 22nd.