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Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Shivers for McBean

She can't compete, but rower touched


  SYDNEY -- She stood stiffly off to the side as the Canadian flag crept up the flagpole and then stretched itself on the wind into the clear blue Australian sky.

 Marnie McBean has stood many times in many places around the world while a Canadian anthem played and the Maple Leaf was unfurled. She still got a shiver yesterday.

 "It was exciting when they played the anthem and then I turned to look at the flag," said the three-time Olympic gold medallist, who attended the ceremony officially welcoming the Canadian team to the Olympic village.

 "It'll be that way my entire life when I hear the Olympic anthem and see the flag.

 "What's that line in the movie Cool Running? 'I'm feeling very Olympic today.' "

 STANDING UP

 McBean stood for the anthem, as you would expect. She also stood for the entire 45-minute ceremony, a nice mix of Aboriginal song and dance and a couple of songs from some elementary school children. McBean pretty much is standing for everything these days, including to have her meals as she tries to learn to live with the back trouble which has forced her to the sidelines for these Olympic Games.

 "I'm getting better," she said, referring to the bulging disc that forced her to withdraw. "I'm moving around a lot more. I was lying down for three weeks and now I'm standing. The first time I sat down was in the plane to fly here and it was not as bad as I thought it would be."

 She has been undergoing what she called ART (active relaxation therapy) which has improved her mobility. While she had to give up her status as an athlete for these Games, the Canadian Olympic Association has her here as an extra official on the coaching and technical staff.

  She had a chance yesterday to savour the welcoming ceremony, something she would have bypassed had she been competing. She said she had no regrets because the severity of her injury left her no option.

 "The doctors were passing it around and saying, 'oh, this is a doozy,' said McBean. "So I have no problems with the decision I made ... I've had the advantage of being an Olympian and you can't take that away."

 Now she can be something else, someone open to a different rhythm of the Games, allowed to stand on a grassy slope under a sunny sky and stop and listen, really hear the voices of children, to really stop and look at a different Olympic Games.

 "I'm seeing a different side of the games, a side I've never had a chance to see before," the 32-year-old said. "I've been telling all the athletes to look me up when they are done competing. I'll have found all the bars."