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    Sunday, February 22, 1998

    Le May Doan to carry Canadian flag

    By JIM O'LEARY -- SLAM! Sports
     NAGANO -- When it came to picking an Olympic athlete to carry Canada's flag at tonight's closing ceremonies, officials pulled a fast one -- speedskating queen Catriona Le May Doan.
     The pride of Saskatoon, a double Olympic medallist, was a concensus pick to receive the honor of leading the Canadian delegation into the stadium. Behind her will march the most successful Canadian Olympic team ever.
     But it was a good thing the Canadian team wasn't following Le May Doan earlier in the day. She missed the flag-bearer press conference after she went to see her husband off at the train station and went missing for a couple of hours.
     She was finally tracked her down at the Athlete's Village.
     "I'm excited," she said. "This is a proud moment. It is a proud thing to do to represent your team and your country.
     "I'm really looking forward to it."
     Le May Doan, 27, was an easy pick after winning gold and bronze speedskating medals. She became the poster athlete for a Canadian team that returns home with a record 15 medals, including six gold.
     For the first time at any Olympics, Winter or Summer, Canada won more medals than the United States.
     Le May Doan said that, compared to racing in the Olympics, flag bearing is a simple task, so she doesn't expect to be nervous even though she'll be watched by millions of TV viewers.
     "It's going to be very excting," she said. "The excitement is always there for opening and closing ceremonies."
     On Valentine's Day, Le May Doan broke the Olympic record in winning the gold medal in the 500 metres speedskate event. She teamed that day with Susan Auch of Winnipeg to make history by winning the gold and silver medals, the first time Canada had ever finished 1-2 in an Olympic event.
     She came back five days later to win bronze in the 1,000 metres, becoming just the fourth Canadian Olympian in an individual event ever to follow a gold medal with a second medal in the same Games.
     "She was an outstanding athlete for Canada and the clear choice (to carry the flag) of everyone we spoke to," said Canada's Chef de Mission Brian Wakelin.