SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The Hamelin family of Canada got the Olympic short track competition off to a winning start.
Charles Hamelin skated clear of the chaos that makes short track so unpredictable, winning the 1,500 meters on Monday for his third different Olympic title.
At 29, Hamelin was the oldest skater in the final. The wily veteran maintained a top-three position throughout most of the 14-lap race, leaving enough at the end to defeat a loaded field.
"He deserves it," American J.R. Celski said. "He went out there and raced his (rear) off."
Hamelin raised his arms in triumph after crossing the finish line at the Iceberg Skating Palace. He pumped his right arm through the turn and went hard into the pads to first embrace his coach and then his father Yves, the team leader for Canada.
"It's so many emotions," Hamelin said. "I have put so much work into it."
Hamelin will have two more chances to win individual gold in the 500 and 1,000, and he'll be part of Canada's team in the 5,000 relay.
Han Tianyu of China took silver. Viktor Ahn of Russia earned the bronze, giving his adopted country its first-ever short track medal. Celski, the 2010 bronze medalist from Federal Way, Wash., finished fourth.
Ahn stepped on the medals podium to wild cheers from the mostly Russian crowd. He was a three-time gold medalist for his native South Korea, but after missing the Vancouver Games four years ago because of a career-threatening injury, he changed his name and became a Russian citizen. He was known as Ahn Hyun-soo when he won gold in the 1,500 at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
"I'm so happy to have this medal," Ahn said through a translator. "I did feel the support of my fans and it played a significant role in my accomplishment. I would like to thank everyone for trusting in me."
Ahn became the second Winter Olympian to win medals for two different countries.
"It's even better when you win against those guys, those legends of the sport," Hamelin said.
Hamelin won gold in the 500 at his home country's Olympics in 2010 and was part of Canada's winning 5,000 relay at the 2006 Turin Games. After a long embrace with his father, Hamelin kissed girlfriend Marianne St-Gelais, who had earlier advanced to the 500 final on Thursday. Hamelin's brother, Francois, also competed in the 1,500.