By Steve Keating
(Reuters) – Following the Pyeongchang Winter Games Candian short-track speedskaters Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais will swap the Olympics rings for wedding bands, continuing a practice that is not uncommon.
Some like Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton and her husband American decathlete champion Ashton Eaton have won medals. Many do not.
Some like Britain’s mixed doubles badminton partnership of Chris and Gabby Adcock team up.
Others like equestrians Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks competed against each other.
Some make it work. Some do not.
“For us it has never been hard to live both sides of that life, being an athlete and in a relationship with an athlete of my sport like Marianne,” the 33-year-old Hamelin told Reuters.
“For me and Marianne we put things very clear from the beginning that when we are at home doing our normal life we are Marianne and Charles the couple.
“When we are the rink and training and in competition at the Olympics, yes of course we are still a couple but we are Charles and Marianne athletes who want to perform, who want to win medals.”
Pyeongchang will be Hamelin’s fourth Games, while St-Gelais will be at her third in South Korea.
Their relationship is one that has sprouted and grown around competition and often been on public display.
At the 2010 Vancouver Games Hamelin jumped into the stands to embrace St-Gelais to the thundering approval of cheering Canadians after winning the 500 meters.
In Sochi, where he was tipped to have a shot at four gold medals, Hamelin finished with just one after failing in the 500 and 1,000m and St-Gelais morphed from cheerleader to therapist.
The couple, however, quickly put that aside for St-Gelais to clinch a silver in the relay.
“We kind of put the couple mode aside and put on the athlete mode and for us it has always worked like that,” said Hamelin, who started dating St-Gelais in 2007.
“Even if we are in athlete mode I’m still the boyfriend of Marianne.”
Over the years Hamelin and St-Gelais have had far more to celebrate than regret.
Hamelin has won four Olympic medals, including three gold while St-Gelais has contributed three silver, while they have a combined haul of more than 50 world championships medals.
It all adds to the family legacy that includes Charles’s brother Francois, a gold medal winner in Vancouver and father Yves, who oversees Canada’s short-track program.
“We don’t always feel it because we are always in training mode and we don’t really feel the legacy we are leaving behind,” said Hamelin.
“When you go see kids around the country to see how they look at you is something really special, that is how we realize that is who I am and that is what I left for the sport.”
That legacy is likely to carry on after the couple is married later this year.
Both are focused on spending much of their free time working with young skaters through clinics and the Quebec and Canadian federations and many expect the coaching reigns will one day pass from Yves to Charles.
“We have been talking about this (the future) for a year,” said Hamelin.
“It’s something you need to talk about because if you finish your career and you are not ready for it you can get lost, you can get unsure.
“Opportunity will come to you, you do things you like and you love and you do things you don’t like and don’t love and that’s where you find your way after this journey of being an athlete.
“That is how you find your life.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)