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    Wednesday, December 31, 1997

    Overland's a survivor

    By JOHN DOWN -- Calgary Sun
      Silly policies could have cost Canada one of its top speed skaters yesterday but Kevin Overland survived.
     Caught between a rock and a hard place, the injured Calgary-based sprinter was forced to race 1,500 metres in the Olympic Trials and Canadian Single Distance Championships in order to record a second competitive qualifying time.
     Skaters must meet Canadian Olympic Association time standards twice.
     Overland, who the previous day was given a bye for the 1,000-metre team, had only skated 1,500 once -- in a then world record time of 1:49.07 earlier this year.
     But because the deadline for a second standard was yesterday and because fellow competitiors wouldn't unanimously agree to waive the deadline, Overland had to lace up his clap skates and tough it out.
     The one-legged horse, hampered by a tender groin, made three and half trips around the Olympic Oval ice in a fourth-best 1:51.25 -- three seconds under the qualifying standard and just a half-second out of an automatic team spot.
     Now, he'll have to skate again next weekend for the final team berth.
     "I don't like the thought that I was put in a position where I could have injured myself badly," said the Kitchener skater. "I had no idea how my muscle was going to react. I had to be very disciplined. I wasn't myself. Not one stride felt normal ... it was a battle and I don't think it proved anything."
     Coach Jack Walters was more succinct.
     "He looked awful," said Walters. "His technique was awful."
     Overland doesn't think he aggravated the injury "because I didn't skate hard enough to hurt myself. But what if I had ... what does everyone say then?
     "It's strange. I get a bye one day ... I simply wanted a bit of leeway."
     Canadian Amateur Speed Skating Association technical director Robert Bolduc held a pre-race meeting with skaters about the possibility of extending the deadline to next weekend but one skater balked and that was the end of the discussion.
     "Of course we were reluctant to have him skate," said Bolduc, "but we had no choice. The deadline is today for two standards and, even if we had awarded Kevin a bye at 1,500, there's a good chance the COA wouldn't have approved it because he didn't have the second time."
     Overland says he'll take the bye at 1,000 but quickly adds it didn't matter one way or the other because he feels confident he could have caught the final team berths on the last weekend of trials.
     "I realize it's criteria but I don't think the system of having to ask everybody is in the best interest of the skater," he said. "What does it matter to another skater if it's in the best interest for me?
     "It's a tough situation and now I'm playing it day by day again. The 500 is really high risk for pulling it (groin) again because it's such an intense race.
     "It would have been really nice to make the 1,500 team today and not worry about skating it after the 500s. Now I'm in an awkward situation."
     If he has to choose, he'll go for the 1,500 and it won't be easy with former world champion Neal Marchall and rising stars Jason Parker and Mark Knoll among his chief rivals.
     "It won't be a walk in the park," grinned Overland. "We have a lot of tough skaters."
     Few, it would seem, will be any tougher than Overland.
     THIS AND THAT: Red Deer's Jeremy Wotherspoon made it a clean sweep of the three distances by winning the 1,500 in 1:50.27 just as Catriona Le May Doan swept the women by finishing up with a 1:59.87 -- about two seconds shy of her world record.