SOCHI: Canadian short track star Charles Hamelin will be counting on a new aerodynamic skinsuit to edge his Asian rivals and three-time gold medallist Viktor Ahn in Sochi starting on Monday.
Short track gets underway at the Iceberg Skating Palace with the men’s 1500m final and the women’s 500m heats and 3000m relay semi-finals also featuring on the first day of action.
Hamelin won gold in the 500m and the 5000m relay in Vancouver and is the highest-ranked male short-tracker in Sochi — ranked top in the World Cup at 1000m and 1500m, second at 500m.
And the 29-year-old will be competing wearing the latest in high-tech clothing for speed skaters — a spandex bodysuit.
“It is based on the aerodynamics of the fabric,” he explained.
“We are told this suit is faster and more comfortable. Knowing that in our minds will make us faster in competition.”
He added: “I want to be the first man to win the 500m in two Olympic Games.”
South Korea and China have traditionally dominated short track, but both have been hit by injuries.
Four-time Olympic gold medallist Wang Meng broke her ankle last month, while South Korea’s Noh Jin-kyu, the 1500m world record-holder, broke his elbow in training.
Ahn will however be looking to upstage his native South Korea and put hosts Russia on the medals table for the first time in the sport.
Ahn, formerly known as Ahn Hyun-Soo, won gold in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m relay for South Korea in 2006, but switched nationalities after failing to qualify for Vancouver.
American JR Celski, bronze medallist in the 1500m and the 5000m relay, and who set the 500m world record in 2012, is a contender for multiple medals.
South Korea’s Sin Dawoon won the 1000m and 1500m at last year’s world championships, and will be a key member of their 5000m relay team on February 21, the final day of competition.
In the absence of Wang, Chinese women’s hopes are lying with Fan Kexin, two-time world champion over 500m, and their relay teams.
Zhou Yang is the defending champion and world record holder in the women’s 1500m and excels at longer distances.
South Korea’s Shim Suk-hee, already winner of the last two World Cups at just 17 years, should be formidable over 1000m and 1500m, while teammate Park Seung-hi was a bronze medallist over 1000m and 1500m in Vancouver.
Park was also on South Korea’s 3000m relay team that was disqualified for impeding in the final at Vancouver, and she is expected to play a key role in the highly-anticipated rematch with China starting on Monday.
Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais and Italy’s Arianna Fontana are hoping to benefit from Wang’s absence to move up from their silver and bronze in the 500m in Vancouver.
The Dutch women — Jorien Ter Mors, and sisters Sanne and Yara Van Kerkhof — are also medal hopes.
Short track includes eight events — 500m, 1,000m, and 1,500m individually for both men and women and the relays — men’s 5000m and women’s 3000m. AFP