Sunday, February 15, 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.
But there was disappointment for the Canadian men in the 1,000 Sunday morning as world record-holder Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., started out fast but faded to sixth.
Dutch skaters finished 1-2 with Ids Postma winning in an Olympic record time of 1:10.64 and Jan Bos second at 1:10.71. Japan's Hiroyasu Shimizu, who won the 500, was third in 1:11.00.
Sylvain Bouchard of Cap-Rouge, Que., was fifth in 1:11.29, ahead of Wotherspoon in 1:11.39. Kevin Overland of Kitchener, Ont., was ninth in 1:11.90 and Patrick Bouchard of Lorretteville, Que., (no relation to Sylvain) was 19th in 1:12.49.
The two medals gave the Dutch the lead in speed skating with two gold, three silver and and bronze.
Canada has four medals thanks to Wotherspoon's silver and Overland's bronze in the 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."
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."