Friday, February 20, 1998
Le May Doan finally cashes in
Nancy Greene. Gaetan Boucher. Myriam Bedard.
And now another Canadian Olympic hero: Catriona Le May Doan, the long-track speed skater with the golden smile and the Midas touch.
"I'm still a little awestruck by it all," the humble woman from Saskatoon said of the two Olympic medals -- gold and bronze -- she won during an incredible week in Nagano.
"I don't think it has sunk in yet. I'm kind of dumbfounded by it. I came into the Olympics with good perspective. The results haven't completely hit me yet. This has been so exciting. What I've felt is a lot of support from home, the support from Canada, the support from Saskatchewan."
This is all new to her. Being a celebrity. Being a name. Being a commodity.
But soon, she will be on television and in magazine advertisements. It's only a matter of when. This is what winning a gold and a bronze does for a Canadian athlete.
"She'll do very well after the Olympics," said Loren Altman, manager of athlete and event marketing for The Landmark Group, the firm that represents Le May Doan. "We've already had some companies call about her. We're talking to a lot of different people. And the companies involved with her now had agreements that increase in value because of how well she did at the Olympics."
Altman would not put a figure on what the Olympic medals will be worth in dollars to Le May Doan, but an industry source indicated that $250,000 a year would be a minimum if her marketing is handled properly.
"There are many companies very impressed with Catriona and how she carries herself. A lot of people are enamored with her personality and her smile."
Canadian speed skating coach Derrick Auch said he doesn't know what her future holds.
"But if I had a toothpaste company, I would sponsor her in a second because she's always smiling and what a smile she has."
IT WAS New Year's Eve in Saskatoon, as 1994 was turning into 1995. Bart Doan and Catriona Le May were at her parents' home celebrating the holidays, and it was just after midnight when she went reaching for the Christmas tree.
Hanging from a branch was an engagement ring.
"I think she knew it was coming," said Doan, a rodeo cowboy from Calgary.
They had met almost three years earlier at the University of Calgary's Olympic Oval, one of the focal points of Le May Doan's life. She was a skater. He worked at the oval and among his duties was cleaning the oval ice.
Le May and Doan started dating in the summer of 1992 and they haven't looked back since. But it is never easy for one athlete to be married to another.
"It's definitely harder here for him than me," Catriona said. "It's pretty draining emotionally to watch someone (you love) perform."
But wearing a black Cowboy hat, Bart Doan was there on Saturday to watch his wife win the 500-metre gold medal, and he was there yesterday morning for the bronze in the 1,000. He wasn't rinkside for the 1,500 on Monday. Catriona knew she wasn't a contender. Without telling anyone else, she told her husband to go the Canadian hockey game that day. She finished 13th.
CATRIONA Le May Doan's life changed forever on a most disastrous afternoon in Lillehammer, Norway. It was the 500-metre event at the Winter Olympic Games in 1994. It was to have been her time to make a name for herself in the speed skating world.
But the medal for Canada that day was won by Susan Auch, and lost in all the celebration and excitement was the story of a little-known speed skater from Saskatoon who crashed and fell and almost lost herself in the process.
"After I fell in 1994, I began to think about it," Le May Doan said. "I'm not a bad person, so why is this happening to me? You want an answer but I didn't have one. So I started searching, saying, 'What can I change?' "
She didn't talk about what was going on in her mind with her husband-to-be. She wasn't sure he would understand. She didn't want him to think she was looking for outside help.
Bart Doan was already a religious person. Catriona Le May was about to become one.
"The Bible says everyone has a gift," she said. "Mine is speed skating. From that gift you have something to do. When I get a medal, I get on the podium. For me, that becomes a podium to speak.
"I wish what happened in Norway never happened, but I think I'm a better athlete now because of that fall. I'm stronger in every way."
THROUGH two Olympic Games, Catriona Le May Doan was just another one of those Canadian amateur athletes nobody ever knew. Just another athlete all dressed up in red who finished 14th and 31st in Albertville, and 17th and 19th in Lillehammer.
She tried different races and different coaches and different technique, all with the same inconsistent results. There was talent there. Missing was some kind of plan.
"She had no focus," said Cal Botterill, the speed skating team's sports psychologist. "She had no full-time coach. She had bad training. Something had to be done."
So she and Botterill met last February and talked about the future, talked about her plans.
"She was like fifth or sixth in the world," Botterill said. "I told her the best situation for her was to train with Susan (Auch) in Calgary and have Derrick (Auch) coach her. That wasn't an easy situation for her to agree to. She would be training with her rival, and with her rival's brother coaching her.
"I told her, the best situation for Susan was when she was chasing Bonnie Blair, the best for you will be for you and Susan to compete against each other in practice. And Derrick just did a fabulous job with her.
"The one thing that always impressed me about Catriona was she kept saying, 'I can race better.' She figured a lot of things out in the last year."
Catriona Le May Doan finally learned how to win.