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    Sunday, February 15, 1998

    Bedard feeling ill-equipped

    By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
      NOZAWA ONSEN -- Myriam Bedard is not ready to say goodbye. Not yet.
     Not until she's certain it's her ... and not her equipment.
     The two-time gold-medallist in biathlon crossed the finish line this morning in 32nd place in the 7.5-kilometre sprint, this coming after a 50th-place finish in the 15km event: a world away from her two first-place finishes in Lillehammer.
     "It's not a good feeling personally,'' Bedard said, looking at the leaderboard at Nozawa Onsen Park, not seeing her name. This is her third Olympic Games, her first without a medal for Canada.
     "I don't want to say it's the last time,'' Bedard said, blaming her troubles on her skis, not on her ability. "This is part of my life. I'm not ready to walk away from this. Maybe it's 50% I'll be in the next Olympics, I don't know.''
     In both of her poor finishes here, Bedard was quick to blame the treatment on her skis, saying it was improper for the kind of snow. She said she didn't have the right wax.
     A biathlon insider described the sport as being not unlike a high-powered car race. If you don't have the right vehicle, you're not going to be competitive.
     "This snow, it's impossible,'' said Bedard, who carried the flag in the closing ceremony at Lillehammer. "To prepare for it properly, you must be here for a month, do lots of studying, lots of tests. We don't have the budget to do that. Today, it was impossible to do better.''
     In the contrasting test of cross-country skiing and shooting that is biathlon, Bedard was half-perfect today. She didn't miss a single target, only one of seven of the 64 competitors to shoot such a score.
     But on skis, she was more than two minutes behind the winner, Galina Koukleva of Russia.
     Michelle Collard of British Columbia, finished 38th, skiing 15 seconds behind her teammate.
     Bedard would not allow herself to get emotional about what might be her last individual Olympic race. She said she will continue training, even if she stops competing. The health problems she experienced in the years between Lillehammer and Nagano had nothing to do her falling results. "My health was not at issue here,'' she said. "I feel fine.''
     Bedard may not participate full time on the World Cup circuit next season, but she will be part of the first World Cup event in Quebec. Bedard has been a hero in Quebec, and many young students in the province have been doing assignments based on her career.
     "I can't let the kids down,'' Bedard said. "They've been following my career, supporting me, learning about biathlon."