Short-track star Charles Hamelin says South Korea still the team to beat despite loss of Ahn Hyun-Soo
Bill Beacon - November 2nd 2009 - Canadian Press
Charles Hamelin doesn't have Ahn Hyun-Soo to chase anymore, but there will be plenty of other fast South Koreans to beat at a World Cup short-track speedskating meet this week.
And some Chinese and Americans, too, as the top skaters from 35 countries gather for the four-day event that starts Thursday at the Maurice Richard Arena, which is the Canadian team's national training centre.
It is a qualifying meet for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Canada will try to place the maximum of three men and women in each event, which shouldn't be too difficult for one of the world's short-track powers.
Leading the men's team is Hamelin, the Levis, Que., native who is the reigning world champion in the 500-metre race.
He battled for gold many times with Ahn, who he calls "the best in the world of all-time," until the South Korean wrecked a knee in a crash during training in January 2008. After three operations, the five-time overall world champion is back skating, but failed to crack his country's Olympic team.
"It's a bit disappointing that he won't be here," Hamelin said Monday. "I hope he comes back and I can race against him again.
"The Koreans will still be strong, like Canada and a couple of Americans and Chinese. But when you had Ahn in a race, you knew he'd be somewhere in the top two and you'd have to try to take the other place. So in that way it will be a bit easier, but in the finals it's always hard to race against the Koreans."