Charles Hamelin crashes again, women’s 3,000 relay takes silver; Canada on verge of record-low medal haul in short track

Minutes after another Charles Hamelin crash, Canada's hard-luck short-track team finally got some salvation with a silver medal in the women's 3,000-metre relay.

Short track is a sport of extremes, and Hamelin has experienced both ends of it in terms of expectation and outcome at the Sochi Olympics. The double gold medallist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was pegged as a contender in all four of his events, but fell in his second consecutive heat, abruptly ending his Olympics three days and three races early.

Hamelin's fall came entirely on his own. The CBC commentator, Kristina Groves, noted the Iceberg Skating Palace's surface has developed ruts, with workers flooding the ice rather than filling in holes.

The fall left it to the 3,000 relay team of Marie-Ève Drolet, Jessica Hewitt, Marianne St-Gelais and Valerie Maltais to give Canada a medal from the day. They won silver, giving Canada its second medal in the discipline in Sochi.

Canada has won at least three short track medals at every Games since 1992. It would need a medal in the men's 500 or women's 1,000 to avoid its worst-ever performance, but its highest-profile competitors, Hamelin and St-Gelais, both failed to make it out of their heats.

The women's relay team had only one top-three finish on the World Cup circuit this season. While Canada has been automatic for a medal in the event in every games since 1992, was considered a long shot behind perennial powers China and Korea, with Italy completing the field.

Canada started well, running second through the first eight laps as China's skaters laid back to conserve energy. A fall by Italy's Arianna Fontana put Canada in a secure medal position. On the final lap, Korea's Suk Hee Shim made a daring pass to overtake China to give her team the gold. Canada crossed the line in the bronze position. China was disqualified after a ruling that its skaters had been too slow to clear the track after exchanges and created an impediment to opponents.

Thus Canada won its second relay silver in row; it's the the third career medal for St-Gelais, who has had a tough Olympics individually. Drolet, the 32-year-old veteran, also won a relay medal in 2002.

The last two short track races take place on Friday at midday Eastern time. Drolet and Maltais have reached the women's 1,000 quarters, while Charle Cournoyer and Olivier Jean have advanced to the men's 500 quarters.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.