Hamelin and Poulin to be Team Canada’s Opening Ceremony flag bearers at Beijing 2022
Two of Team Canada’s most accomplished athletes will carry the maple leaf into Friday’s Opening Ceremony at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Short track speed skater Charles Hamelin and the captain of the women’s hockey team, Marie-Philip Poulin, have held onto the secret for more than a week, since hearing of the honour from Chef de Mission Catriona Le May Doan during a video conference.
At 37 years old, Hamelin is set to compete in his fifth Olympic Winter Games. That is the most of any athlete on the Beijing 2022 edition of Team Canada. He will be the first Canadian short track speed skater to compete at five Olympic Games, tying the all-time participations record in his sport.
He brings with him five Olympic medals, leaving him one shy of the all-time Canadian Winter Olympic record held by long track speed skater Cindy Klassen and two medals away from Canada’s all-time Olympic medal record held by swimmer Penny Oleksiak.
“Since the first time I wore the maple leaf, I felt that feeling of family right away. Going into my fifth Olympic Games, it is really incredible. For me, that family is one of the biggest reasons why I’m still here and why I love what I do,” said Hamelin. “Every time I would walk into an Opening Ceremony, I would look at the flag bearer as a role model. To be named flag bearer is something I can now check off my to do list.”
Now 30, Poulin was Canada’s gold medal hero at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. In her Olympic debut, she was the lone goal scorer in a 2-0 shutout victory over the United States in the final. In the dramatic rematch four years later, she tied the game with just 55 seconds to play in the third period and then added the overtime winner. The captain came up clutch again at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship, scoring the overtime winner against the United States that gave Canada it’s first world title since 2012.
“Being named flag bearer, I feel like I need to pinch myself,” said Poulin. “When you watch the Opening Ceremony, you see the smile and the pride in the people holding the flag. It’s hard to put into words but to now be the one with the smile on my face, it is truly an honour.”
As at Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee has encouraged each National Olympic Committee to nominate one female and one male athlete to jointly carry their country’s colours at the Opening Ceremony.
Hamelin is just the second short track speed skater to ever serve as Team Canada’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer. Thirty years ago, Sylvie Daigle had the honour in the Olympic debut of her sport at Albertville 1992.
“Marie-Philip is an incredible athlete but more than that, she’s an incredible human,” said Hamelin. “I see her as a leader and an inspiration. I’ll be one lucky man carrying the maple leaf alongside her at the Opening Ceremony.”
“I’ve been able to watch Charles over the last couple of decades and watching him succeed, I will be very honoured to be walking besides Charles carrying the flag,” added Poulin.
Given the opportunity to reflect on his illustrious career, Hamelin pinpointed the 5000m relay gold medal won at Vancouver 2010 as his favourite Olympic memory because his brother, François, was one of his teammates.
“It’s not often you see two brothers stepping on the podium together and it was for the gold in Vancouver in front of our home crowd with our family,” he said.
As for what the Olympic experience means at this point in his career?
“I am the proof that when you love something, when you have dreams and you believe in yourself and you work hard, anything is possible. I’m glad I can guide my teammates with the different experiences I have been through,” said Hamelin.
The short track speed skating competition will begin about 24 hours after the Opening Ceremony, with the heats of the men’s 1000m and women’s 500m and all rounds of the mixed relay, an event new to the Olympic program.
Poulin and the women’s hockey team will see action the day before the Opening Ceremony as they open their tournament against Switzerland on February 3. They’ll be back on the ice the afternoon after the Opening Ceremony, taking on Finland.
“Every time you have the honour to wear that maple leaf, it’s so much bigger than yourself,” said Poulin. “For me, that maple leaf is everything. It’s from the people that have been there before me to the new generation. It’s pride, it’s hard work, but there’s no better feeling than wearing that maple leaf.”