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    Friday, February 13, 1998

    Marshall left out in cold

    By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
      NAGANO -- Sometimes the nice guys and their nice stories don't finish last.
     They finish 30th in a field of 45.
     It could have been one of the stories for which the Olympics have become known, one of the nice stories of these XXVIII Winter Olympic Games, the story of Neal Marshall, speedskater, of Coquitlam, B.C.
     Neal Marshall, who overcame asthma and got a second lease on life because of the unselfishness of a teammate, another chance to be here at the Olympics, another chance to compete in the men's 1500m.
     Neal Marshall's luck just won't change.
     Neal Marshall, 28, couldn't compete in the Olympic trials because a cold, on top of his exercise-induced asthma, left his power plant of a body gasping for air.
     The former world record holder, who finished second overall the last couple of years in the World Cup, couldn't claw the air he needed into his lungs. There was an appeal to make the team, but it didn't look good.
     Enter Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer.
     He had already qualified for the 500m, the 1000m and the 1500m.
     Wotherspoon gave up his place in the 1500m to concentrate on the 500m and the 1000m and Marshall got his place in the field which took to the ice at the spectacular M-Wing early yesterday morning.
     That's been one of the few nice things to happen to Marshall lately.
     The worst had been the worsening of his asthma this year.
     He tried all kinds of remedies, to little avail.
     There was acupuncture. There was a change in diet, working on the advice of the nutritionist who works with sprinter Donovan Bailey.
     There was even a special wire-mesh mask which was supposed to warm the air he was to breath.
     Marshall tried yesterday.
     He tried, but, as his luck would have it, he caught a cold here.
     The asthma, a cold, a superlatively fast field (all three medal winners broke the world record), it was all too much.
     He turned in a time of one minute, 52.93 seconds, nearly three seconds over his personal best.
     "It's very disappointing," he said.
     When told of his placing, he replied: "That's pathetic. My health has been pretty bad. There's a flu or cold going around the village though I feel better than I have. My asthma's been aggravated. That's the story of my year.
     "It's still great to be here, but you don't come here with that as your only goal.
     "It's disappointing when you don't come close to your best, especially after I feel I was given a second chance to be here."
     It wasn't a good day for Canada's highly-touted speedskaters.
     While the rest of Canada waited to find out if they and snowboarder Ross Rabagliati had lost a medal, Kevin Overland of Kitchener, the bronze medal winner in the 500 Saturday, tried, but couldn't steal one on the Olympic oval.
     Skating in the final pair of the men's 1500m, Overland faded in the last turn and wound up 20th as the Canadians finished well up the track.
     Not that Overland's task was an easy one.
     The pair before him -- gold-medal winner Aadne Sondral of Norway and silver-medal winner Ids Postma of the Netherlands -- both broke the world record.
     So did Rintje Ritsma of the Netherlands, who won the bronze.
     Sondral was clocked in one minute, 47.87 seconds, while Postma, who stumbled in the last turn, turned in a time of 1:48.13. The old record was 1:48.88.
     Steve Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was 25th and Kevin Marshall, Neal's brother, was 26th.
     "Even on your best day," said Neal Marshall, "you can't afford the slightest mistake. Then to be less than 100%..."
     A disappointing day for Canada, but a great day for speedskating.
     Canada will have other days, perhaps as soon as early Sunday when the men attack what might be their strongest event, the 1000m, erasing the bad taste of the 1500m.
     "I didn't have it today, but it was good training for the 1,000," said Overland. "I'll have time to recover and time to regroup. My coach assures me my legs are going to be fine.
     "I think there's a chance we could have a few guys on the podium. We're capable. If one guy does well and gets the ball rolling, you'll see the other guys do well. We feed off each other.
     "I've been on cloud nine, still basking in the glory of the bronze, but I'm not satisfied yet. I can't wait to skate the 1,000."
     Unfortunately for Neal Marshall, his Olympics are over. The 1500m was his only event.
     A nice story with a not-so-nice ending.