Olympic champion Samuel Girard announces sudden retirement

Olympic champion Samuel Girard announces sudden retirement

Canada's Samuel Girard is going out on top.

The 22-year-old short track speed skater announced his retirement on Friday alongside teammate and girlfriend Kasandra Bradette.

At the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last year, Girard won Canada's first-ever Olympic gold medal on the 1,000-metre track before adding bronze as a member the 5,000m relay team.

"I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished," Girard said Friday in a statement from Speed Skating Canada.

"This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I've made and am ready to move onto the next step."

Bradette, 29, competed in the 3,000m relay in Pyeongchang during her lone Olympic appearance.

Girard's stunning decision is a big blow to Canada's podium hopes for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Dubbed by some as the successor to Charles Hamelin, Girard turned and leaped into his veteran teammate's arms after winning the 1,000.

WATCH | Girard earns Canada's 1st-ever 1,000-metre gold:

"I will share my medal with him," Girard said after the race of his friend Hamelin. "He worked so hard for me to be what I am right now."

But Girard has now hung up his skates before Hamelin. It was Hamelin who was expected to retire following the Olympics, but he reversed course and delayed the end of his career by one year. The 35-year-old still hasn't said whether he will return again for the 2019-2020 World Cup season.

Girard, of Chicoutimi, Que., won four medals – all silver – over the last three International Skating Union (ISU) world championships. The podium appearances were split evenly between individual (1,000 in 2016; 1,500 in 2017) and team (5,000 relay in 2016 and 2018) accomplishments.

Bradette, from St-Felicien, Que., won three world championship medals including the 1,000 bronze and 3,000 relay silver in 2016, and the 3,000 relay bronze in 2018.

"With the retirement of Kasandra and Samuel, two of the leading speed skaters in Quebec and Canada are taking their bow," said Robert Dubreuil, executive director of the Quebec Speed Skating Federation.

"They have both marked our sport, each in their own way. Kasandra has shown extraordinary determination in her Olympic pursuit and Samuel, for his part, will be remembered for his immense talent and work ethic that led him to the top step of the Olympic podium."

Girard's retirement leaves a void in Canadian men's short track as the country looks elsewhere for speed skating prospects.

Triple Olympic medallist Kim Boutin, 24, burst onto the scene along with Girard in Pyeongchang and was named the closing flag-bearer.

With Girard's sudden retirement, the short track torch now falls to Boutin.