Saturday, February 14, 1998
Le May Doan has eyes on more Olympic gold
The Saskatoon native set an Olympic record Saturday, while Winnipeg's Susan Auch won the silver medal, but Le May Doan gave the impression afterward this may be only the beginning.
"I'm more relaxed now," Le May Doan said. "All of this was foreign to me (Friday for the opening round), but now I can try to enjoy the 1,500 and the 1,000.
"We all go into events with the goal to be the best, and I know I can be competitive."
Le May Doan holds the world records in the 500 and the 1,500, which starts Monday, and both she and Auch are contenders in the 1,000.
The speed skaters have been the highlight of the Games so far for Canada, with four medals in total. Jeremy Wotherspoon won silver and Kevin Overland bronze in the men's 500.
Coach Derrick Auch, Susan's brother, believes this will be Canada's most successful Winter Olympics ever for speed skaters.
"The biggest thing I see right now is we've had four different people win speed skating medals," Derrick Auch said. "It's absolutely amazing. For sure there's more to come."
Derrick Auch said that on top of Le May Doan and Susan Auch's chances in the 1,000, Canada has three legitimate medal hopefuls in the men's 1,000 -- Wotherspoon, Overland and Sylvain Bouchard of Cap Rouge, Que., who just missed a medal in the 500.
"We're a really good team and I hope it continues," Le May Doan said. "We come in here knowing we're one of the strongest teams and we've proven it to everyone. We've stayed powerful all year."
A major reason for the team's improvement, not just over the last 12 months but since the late '80s when the program struggled, has been the technical improvement. Many talk about the clap skate and its benefits, but the Canadian team has concentrated on its stride more than its equipment.
The transition to the clap skate has been smooth, but the results, Le May Doan and Auch concurred, would have been as good in the pre-clap world.
Auch said the Oval training centre in Calgary, a legacy of the 1998 Winter Games, has allowed skaters to practise under ideal conditions.
"We start training in July, we have a longer season, and we don't have to worry about the wind, rain, or the snow. We've had the time to think about technique, and that has definitely advanced us."
Gaetan Boucher, Canada's most succesful Olympic athlete in history with two gold medals and a silver at the 1984 Sarajevo Games and a bronze at Lake Placid in 1980, said this team has surpassed the achievements of any other.
"These are already the greatest Games (for Canadian speed skaters)," Boucher said after the 500. "The sport didn't grow much from 1984 to 1992, but we're seeing it (the improved training facilities) pay off now."
Boucher, in Nagano working as a CBC commentator, said that during his day, he would spend October to March in Europe training -- usually in Germany and the Netherlands.
For champions like Le May Doan -- who started speed skating because her sister saw a poster in downtown Saskatoon and recommended she give it a try -- the Oval and the National Sports Centre in Calgary have made a huge difference.
Among other things, it's brought together the country's best athletes.
"We feed off each other," Le May Doan said of her friendly rivalry with Auch. "The faster we go, the more we push each other."