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    Monday, February 9, 1998

    Bedard ends up feeling empty

     NOZAWA ONZEN, Japan (CP) -- Myriam Bedard knew exactly where she wanted to be, and it wasn't competing in the women's 15-kilometre biathlon event Sunday at the Olympic Games.
     "I could have done without this race," the 28-year-old from Quebec City said after finishing 50th in the event she won at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
     "It would have been better to sit in my living room and watch the race on television. Today, the only pleasure was finishing."
     And even that pleasure left her with an empty feeling.
     Ekatarina Dafovska of Bulgaria, ranked 51st in the world, won the 15-kilometre gold in 54 minutes 52.0 seconds -- the first-ever gold medal by a Bulgarian at a Winter Olympics. Elena Petrova of Ukraine was second in 55:09.8 and Ursula Disl of Germany took the bronze in 55:17.9.
     Bedard, also a bronze medallist in the 15-km at the 1992 Albertville Games, struggled in at 1:02:44.1.
     Nikkie Keddie of Toronto finished 60th out of 64 entrants.
     "I'm suffering from a cold and considering these conditions, I don't think I did too bad," she said. "It's not easy to ski when you can hear your lungs whistling."
     Bedard said a shift in the weather played a big part in her race and that of the top contenders.
     The biathletes warmed up in a snowstorm, but by race time the storm had passed and the snow had become sticky. The wind changed direction four times.
     Just making the finish line was the only realistic goal for those who had chosen the wrong wax, Bedard said.
     "It was like I had glue under my skis today," Bedard said. "Whatever shape you are in, on a course like this one you can't get ahead, you can only die slowly.
     "It was very hard getting to the finish line, I had nothing left....I was empty."
     Sweden's Magdalena Forsberg, ranked first in the World Cup standings, finished only 14th. Several other stars also faltered on the tough course.
     "It was not the best skiers who won today," said Bedard. "There was a lot of luck involved in the choice of skis."
     Bedard also won the 7.5-kilometre event at Lillehammer in becoming the first North American biathlete to win Olympic gold. She was Canadian flag bearer at the closing ceremony in Lillehammer.
     She is expected to compete in the sprint on Saturday, and the relay on the 18th, but said her chances of a high finish are slim.
     "I haven't been a very good sprinter in the last few years," she said.
     This was likely Bedard's last hurrah as an Olympic athlete. The World Cup circuit this year has been a struggle, and various health problems and the birth of her first child in 1995 have conflicted with her training and competition.
     Because of a food allergy that has led to thyroid problems, Bedard requires at least 10 hours of sleep a night during training and 12 during competition. Her best finish this season has been 15th at a World Cup race, but most of the time she's fallen to or near the bottom of the pack.
     Bedard also had few promising finishes prior to the Lillehammer Games, but the season before that, in 1993, she had gold and silver medals at the world championships.
     She said after Monday's race that she doesn't plan to compete for the rest of the season and likely won't attempt to compete in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Olympics.