Jubilant short-track team feeling confident about upcoming races

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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VANCOUVER - The mojo is all good for Canada's short-track speedskating team.
After rookie sprinter Marianne St-Gelais took the silver this week in the 500 metres, the tight group of skaters is feeling buoyed and much more relaxed about their major races coming up Saturday.
Charles and Francois Hamelin, brothers from Ste-Julie, Que., will compete in the 1,000 metres. Tania Vicent, Kalyna Roberge and Valerie Maltais will compete in the women's 1,500 metres.
For Charles Hamelin, the world-record holder in the 1,000, the load feels much lighter than it did at the beginning of the Games.
On the first day of the Olympics, the country was watching to see if he'd be the first to win a gold medal on Canadian soil. But after a tough match-up in a semifinal he did not make it to the medal round and placed fifth.
On top of that, he was a ball of nerves watching his sweetheart St-Gelais compete on Wednesday. When he saw her cross the line, a shiny-eyed Hamelin said he felt happier than if he had won the medal himself.
"He's really in his bubble now," said Yves Hamelin, father to Charles and Francois and team leader.
St-Gelais too said her man would now be able to focus all his energy on the races ahead.
"He gets very stressed when I skate," St-Gelais said earlier this week. "It doesn't show but I think I stress him out more than he puts pressure on himself. Now he knows that I have what I want. I have my medal, so he can really concentrate on what he has to do."
Yves Hamelin agreed the gold medal wins by other Canadian athletes has taken the pressure off. The floodgates are now fully open.
"Marianne's medal, the whole performance of the Canadian team, to see it's working out in all the disciplines and we've reached three gold medals, that relaxes things," said Hamelin. "That aspect was a concern...now it's there, it's concrete, it's acquired."
Much will rest now, as it did last Saturday, on who the Hamelin boys are matched up with in the semifinals. Only two skaters from each heat advance, so winding up in a heat with two lightning Korean skaters or perhaps one Korean and American Apolo Anton Ohno can mean a real challenge to advance.
The 1,000 metres has become a sprint now in international competitions, and the Canadians must skate the entire 13.5 laps in the front.
Still, their father says the delicious dream of having both Charles and Francois in the final will be very tough, but not necessarily an impossibility.
Getting into good mental form for the next races was more challenging for Kalyna Roberge, of St-Etienne-de-Lauzon, Que. Roberge wept after she was shut-out of the women's 500 metre final. She was Canada's top contender in the distance, but teammates St-Gelais and Jessica Gregg made it through instead.
Now, she will try to make the final in the 1,500, alongside teammates Tania Vicent and Valerie Maltais.
"Right after the race, she said I'm going to take the time to flush that race, I've got to get back my focus for the other distances," said Hamelin.
As for Vicent, the 34-year-old doyenne of the team, Hamelin said she has the ability to surprise as St-Gelais did.
"Tania, she has nothing to prove, she's doing it for the pleasure," he said. "That's her mindset, she's there to win, she has the warrior mentality."

Geographic location: Canada, VANCOUVER, Ste-Julie De-Lauzon, Que

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