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    Friday, February 20, 1998

    Le May Doan should carry our flag

    By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
      NAGANO -- Put a white cowboy hat on her head and give the girl the flag.
     No one could be more perfect to carry Canada's colors in the closing ceremonies than Catriona Le May Doan.
     No one better represents the story of Canada at these Olympics than Cat Doan.
     It's not just that she became a two-medal Olympian with a bronze in the 1,000 metres. It's also that she represents speed skating and represents Calgary. The story of Canada at these Games is first and foremost the living legacy of the Calgary '88 Winter Olympics, the facilities and the vision of organizers who banked the bucks to hothouse our winter athletes off the interest for ages.
     She's a wonderful story, this girl from Saskatoon who married the Zamboni driver from the oval in Calgary, a rodeo cowboy from Halkirk, who is a cousin of Shane Doan, the NHL player.
     She embodies the story of her sport and the story of the city which has become home to so many of Canada's winter athletes.
     Five medals for long-track speed skating. That's more medals than Canada won as an entire nation in XIV of the XVIII Olympic Winter Games.
     Le May Doan's bronze was Canada's 13th medal at these Olympics, equalling our nation's record from four years ago in Lillehammer. And Le May Doan put herself in special company by winning two medals - she also captured gold in the 500 metres - at the same Games. Only Nancy Greene, Myriam Bedard and Gaetan Boucher have done that in individual events.
     Boucher (1984) won two gold and a bronze in speed skating, Bedard (1994) won two gold in biathlon and Greene (1968) won a gold and silver in skiing.
     Le May Doan doesn't seem to know it, but the medals make her not just Saskatchewan's sweetheart but Canada's sweetheart, too. She has no idea of what's waiting for her when she gets home. She has no idea of how this will affect the rest of her life.
     Greene had her two-medal Olympics in Grenoble in '68 and she's still a famous face.
     "The impact hasn't hit me yet, but I know it will when I get home,'' said the skater who will be hustled, along with curler Sandra Schmirler, to every one of those small-town turkey-supper-style banquets where normally a Saskatchewan Roughrider is the star attraction.
     She guaranteed Saskatchewan would fall in love with her when she carried the provincial flag for a lap.
     She carried the Canadian flag well, too. They all did, these speed skaters.
     It's too bad they didn't have a Calgary flag to wave around, too.
     "We did great here and one of the biggest, if not the biggest, reason is the facilities and training we had available in Calgary,'' said silver medal winner Susan Auch of Winnipeg.
     "The training centre made this a close team. That's where it came from.''
     Doan said it for the world to hear at the press conference.
     She said she wouldn't have been taking either medal home from here if it hadn't been for Calgary.
     "Definitely not.
     "The oval in Calgary has developed the whole team. There's only one person on the team who is actually from Calgary. The rest of us moved there to train there.
     "We've just helped each other to be better. This is an individual sport but we had a team atmosphere.
     "That really, really helps.
     "It really showed here.''
     And make room for the next wave appearing soon at the next Olympic M-Wave building.
     "The talent coming up is just incredible,'' she said.
     All three girls on the podium are occasional users of the Calgary oval for training.
     Gold medal winner Mariane Timmer of the Netherlands is the Dutch treat who is sweet on Canada's bronze medal winner Kevin Overland.
     There's even a chance they'll get married and Timmer will become a Canadian for the next Olympics.
     "I wouldn't rule it out,'' said Overland. "Eventually one of us is going to have to move.''
     Silver medal winner Christine Witty of the U.S. and Timmer are both dating guys who train in Calgary. At the podium press conference the two were talking about taking a trip to Mexico together after they found cheap fares at a University of Calgary travel agency.
     You can't count their gold and silver medals. But all five of the speed-skating medals and Pierre Lueders' bobsled gold were hatched in Calgary.
     "Our entire success story at these Olympics is a direct result of Calgary '88,'' says Canadian chef de mission Brian Wakelin. "It's the facilities and the interest on the $16 million in the athletes fund for the athletes' high performance centre.
     "I'd love to see a Winter Olympics in Quebec City so we could do the same thing in the East.''
     Canada isn't going to catch Germany or Norway in the medal standings at these Olympics. But we're right in there going for third place against Russia, Finland, Austria, the Netherlands and the United States.
     Calgary should keep us up there for many years to come.