Saturday, February 14, 1998
Tomorrow's Olympic heroes
Meanwhile back in Calgary, where the Olympic team trains, young junior speed skaters watch the Nagano Games in awe and dream of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, when they may be in the same spotlight.
They work out diligently nearly every day at the Olympic Oval, understanding there may be a great reward at the end of it all. They see it now on television as the Canadian speed skating team hits the spotlight front and centre at Nagano.
"I've been staying up really late to watch them on TV and it's amazing how they're doing -- especially in the 500 sprint the other night," said Arne Dankers, 17, who's on the national junior men's team.
"It really pumped me up, gave me a real goal to go after. I want to be on the Olympic team and be there in Salt Lake City in 2002."
Dankers says he's amazed at how the Canadians have become a totally competitive team.
"Before it was just Gaetan Boucher and then it was just Susan Auch," he said.
"One-man teams. Now you see an entire team that's good, with a lot of skaters having medal chances. We on the junior team look at them and say, 'hey, this can happent to us too.' We really look up to them."
Dankers says the Olympians are a major inspiration.
"I watch them train here at the Oval all the time and in fact, I share a locker room with them," he said.
'I watch how they prepare themselves and I learn a lot from them. I see what they're accomplishing and I can see myself doing that for the next Olympics."
Krisy Myers, 19, who's on the junior women's national team, says she hasn't missed a Nagano beat.
"It's been hard staying up that late but there's no way I'm going to miss it," said Myers, who's from Lloydminster, Sask. but moved to Calgary to train.
"I've got to watch as much as I can to get the atmosphere, find out how it will feel when I get there. Ultimately my goal is to be there in 2002 and get the learning experience. Then in 2006, get to the podim."
Myers says she's not surprised by the accomplishments of the Olympic team.
"Maybe last fall they surprised everybody but not now," she said.
"I think they fully expected to come home with medals. It really opened up my eyes to the possibilities this year. I finished eighth in the Canada Cup here and the top four girls went to the Olympics. It's getting close enough now that you really want to reach out for it. It's something that is really keeping me going and the effort of the team in Nagano is a great inspiration."
Etienne Lussier, 20, who's from Montreal and on the Quebec team, added, "it's a great sensation to see our team doing so well and it really makes you think about getting there for 2002 and having the same experience. These people are giving a lot of inspiration to us."
Andrea Gordon, 18, who's from Fort St. John and on the B.C. team, says she can't get enough of the Olympic TV speedskating coverage.
"I've been watching it until 3 a.m. in the morning and it's really been exciting," said Gordon, who attends the U of C and trains at the Oval.
"I dream about it -- being there some day at the Olympics and representing Canada. I know it's a long term goal."
Dennis Kadatz, president of the Canadian Olympic Development Association, says the Olympic speedskaters are providing a valuable guide for the youngsters.
"Kids are being turned on to speed skating," he said.
"We're going to have some heroes now. It's amazing how it turns on young people."
Indeed, the Olympic success has done that. Just ask young skaters like Dankers, Myers, Lussier and Gordon.