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    Saturday, February 7, 1998

    Stemmle gives up front row seat

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
      NAGANO -- Canadian downhill skier Brian Stemmle missed out on the chance of his life yesterday.
     The Canadian Olympic Association decided that the three athletes competing in their fourth Games -- speed skater Susan Auch, bobsledder Chris Lori and Stemmle -- would march in the front row in the opening ceremonies, right behind flag-bearer Jean-Luc Brassard. It was a gesture never offered to veteran athletes before.
     Unfortunately, Stemmle, 31, had a final training run yesterday morning at Hukuba Mountain, which is about a two-hour drive from downtown Nagano. Therefore, he couldn't make the opening ceremonies.
     That was a particularly cruel blow considering that the Aurora native will retire in a year or two.
     "Sure, it's disappointing," said the popular ski racer. "But what can you do?"
     Lori, a member of the national bobsled team since 1985, was quite moved by the gesture.
     "It's a great honor, absolutely," said the Windsor native. "I'm proud to walk up in the front row with the Chef de Mission (Brian Wakelin). And Jean-Luc is a great guy to have up there in front. He's been very successful and he's a great guy to carry the flag for us."
     The chance to march near the front of the pack brings much-deserved recognition to Lori, a virtual unknown in Canadian sport despite a long career of success on the World Cup circuit, including an overall victory during the 1989-90 season in the four-man event.
     Lori, 35, is an athlete who truly competes for the love of sport and clearly loves the lifestyle, despite the obvious lack of material gain for bobsledders.
     In fact, after the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Lori spent almost an entire year responding to each of the 3,000 letters of support he received from Canadians.
     "It made me feel good to do that," Lori said. "I remember when I was young and wrote to Bobby Orr, and the Boston Bruins sent me an autographed Bobby Orr picture. I remember how good it felt to know this guy sent me this picture of him. That's why I did it."