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    Saturday, February 14, 1998

    Le May Doan going for glory

    By JIM O'LEARY -- SLAM! Sports

     NAGANO -- It's one down and two to go as Catriona Le May Doan sets her sites on becoming the first Canadian since Gaetan Boucer in 1984 to win three medals in a single Olympics.
     Le May Doan of Saskatoon and Susan Auch of Winnipeg made history Saturday when they won the gold and silver medals in the women's 500-metre speedskate. It was the first time Canada had ever finished 1-2 in an Olympic event, winter or summer.
     Next up for Le May Doan is Monday's 1,500, in which she holds the world record. She closes out her Olympics on Thursday with the 1,000-metre race.
     In 1984, Boucher won two golds and a bronze in the most outstanding single performance by a Canadian Olympian. Le May Doan is well aware of Boucher's accomplishments, but is reluctant to play a game of bravado.
     "My only goal is to go out and have my best race possible," she said. "If that is three gold medals, great. If not, I can live with that, too."
     Le May Doan broke the 1,500-metre world record at the Canadian Olympic trials in Calgary last December. But she says she hasn't competed internationally at that distance since the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. She believes her stronger event is the 1,000 metres.
     "In the 1,000, definitely, I'll be very competitive there," she said. "But I don't know what to expect in the 1,500."
     Le May Doan was outstanding in taking gold in the 500 metres. She broke the Olympic record in the first day of qualifying and then bettered it on the final day, when she went head to head with Auch for the gold medal.
     She has come from nowhere in the past year to become the most dominant female speedskater in the world. Many of her competitors attribute her rapid rise to the development of the clap skate, a hinged blade that allows skaters to keep the blade on the ice longer and increase their speed. Le May Doan quicly became a master of the new technology. But she prefers to attribute her success to major improvements in technique.
     "Partially, it has been the new skates. But is also due to my coaching, my teammates and my attitude. But mostly I think it is because I'm skating technically better. Many people have come up to me and commented on how much my technique has improved in the past year."
     In the 500, Le May Doan was happy to be set against Auch for the final race. The two speedsters have gone head to head often this season, with Auch being the only skater to defeat Le May Doan in an international 500-metre event.
     Auch has the world's best start. She bolted from the starting line to record the fastest opening 100 metres in women's skating history. Le May Doan believes she benefitted from the qucik pace set by her teammate.
     "I was pretty nervous before the race," said Le May Doan. "I knew Susan would have a great start. I felt a lot more confident just being paired with Susan. I think it was great for both of us."
     Auch, competing in her fourth Olympics, also won a 500-metre silver medal four years ago in Lillehammer. She missed the entire 1996 season with a serious knee injury and was delighted to see her comeback culminate with a second trip to the Olympic medal podium.
     "I raced the best race I could possibly have raced," she said. "I've come a long way (since her injury) and had two great races here."
     After her fast start, Auch believed a gold medal was possible.
     "I thought that maybe I had a chance, but then I think I panicked a bit. But this feels great. I guess I just like silver."
     Winning the 500, says Le May Doan, sets her up nicely to take a run at victory in the 1000 and 1500 metre events. She is confident, healthy and eager to get going.
     "Definitely, winning in the 500 makes me more relaxed," she said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. Now I can go out and enjoy the 1000 and 1500."