CANOE NAGANO '98 ISP DIRECTORY
Saturday, February 14, 1998
Le May Doan comes out on top
NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Le May or LeMay? Hyphen or no hyphen before Doan?
Catriona LeMay Doan, the world's fastest female on ice, had just won Canada's first Olympic gold medal in women's speedskating, and the only revealing bit of information left to learn was how she spelled her name.
As for her effortless win in the 500 meters on Saturday, that seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
Ever since she slipped on the revolutionary clap skates, no one has dominated the sprints like LeMay Doan (no space or hyphen, please).
In six World Cup events this season, she has five golds and one silver. She became the first woman to break 38 seconds in the 500 meters on Nov. 22, and set the world record three more times since.
Nothing changed at the M-Wave, where LeMay Doan handily beat teammate Susan Auch to the finish line and set an Olympic Record for the second straight day with a time of 38.21 seconds.
Tomoni Okazaki of Japan won the bronze, while Chris Witty of West Allis, Wis., wound up 10th.
"I'm definitely proud of the medal, and of Canada," LeMay Doan said.
The gold medal secured, she hugged Auch as the two skated side-by-side around the oval, their skates clacking along the way.
It was a far cry from just one year ago, when LeMay Doan was ranked seventh in the world, and Auch, 31, was trying to recover from knee surgery. With the clap skates, LeMay Doan has been virtually unbeatable. Her only World Cup loss this year was to Auch.
" think I'm more efficient on the clap skates than traditional skates," LeMay Doan conceded.
Still, she bristled at the notion that the hinged blade is what separates her from the rest of the sprinters. She points to her technique, as well as powerful thighs that propel her around the oval in record time.
"I don't think you can skate 37.5 (her world record time) on the claps and not skate close to that on traditional skates," she said. "The biggest thing is the improvement in my technique. For me, the experience and work of the last two years came together at the right time."
Auch was faster down the first 100 meters for the second straight day, but it wasn't long before LeMay Doan let her thick, muscular thighs generate incredible power with each graceful stride.
"I thought maybe I could win a gold this year," Auch said. "But I raced the best race I could. I can't go away feeling disappointed at all."
It was Auch's second straight Olympic silver in the 500. She was the runner-up in Lillehammer to Bonnie Blair.
Now, the attention focuses squarely on whether LeMay Doan can turn the M-Wave into her own domain. She still has two races left in the 1,500 and 1,000, with medals possible in both of them.
That would be quite a turnaround for Canada, which until Saturday had won only two medals in women's speedskating, both of them silver.
And it's not just the women. The Canadian men already have a 2-3-4-5 finish in the 500, and are heavy medal favorites for Sunday's 1,000.
"We've been powerful all year," LeMay Doan said. "When we've attained high speeds, we're such a close team that we've been feeding off that. The faster we go, the more we help each other. I think this will motivate the men for the 1,000."
Along with the claps and the ice -- the oval in Calgary is regarded as the fastest track in the world -- the Canadians have boasted throughout the Nagano games about their unity.
That was never more evident in the 500 duel between LeMay Doan and Auch.
The two sprinters last year worked out a potentially sticky situation when LeMay Doan joined the training program of Auch's brother, Derrik. The entire team held a meeting to talk about what problems might arise.
"I wanted Catriona to be able to train with us," Auch said. "Having to figure out how to work together with my brother coaching both of us was really, really challenging. We've always been friends, but what changed is we weren't really supportive of each other. Now, we actually ae.
"After the race, I was really happy for Catriona," she said. "I've seen her work hard and race well."