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  • canada sked medal results SLAM!  NAGANO

    Monday, February 9, 1998

    Four Canadians remain in medal contention

    By DAN RALPH -- Canadian Press
     NAGANO, Japan -- Canadian sprint coach Derrick Auch was all smiles after the opening round of the Olympic men's 500-metre speed skating event.
     And with good reason.
     All four members of the Canadian team remain in medal contention heading into the final round early Tuesday.
     Kevin Overland of Kitchener, Ont., is the top Canadian, sitting second after posting a time of 35.78 seconds -- an Olympic record that was promptly bettered by a Japanese skater. Sylvain Bouchard of Loretteville, Que., was fourth in 35.90 seconds, with Patrick Bouchard of Cap-Rouge, Que., -- no relation -- tied for fifth with Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands at 35.96 seconds. Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., was seventh in 36.04 seconds despite touching the ice with his hand on the final turn.
     Japan's Hiroyasu Shimizu topped the field, completing the course in an Olympic-record time of 35.76 seconds.
     "Four in the top seven is pretty good and I don't think any of our guys think they skated their best races," Auch said.
     "I think it's a pretty good day for Canada. We're not sweeping the podium but we certainly still have a chance to do that."
     Head sprint coach Robert Tremblay agreed.
     "The most important thing for them was to make sure they still had a really good shot at the podium," he said. "They do so that's great."
     No Canadian athletes were available for comment, as per a team rule that bars them from talking to reporters in between rounds.
     No world records fell Sunday after three global marks were set Saturday. But the top 11 skaters all posted times under the former Olympic standard of 36.33 seconds, established by Russian Aleksandr Golubev at Lillehammer, Norway in 1994.
     "The world record (35.39 seconds, held by Shimizu) is really fast and you need a perfect ice to beat that time," Tremblay said. "The ice here is really good, but I think it (world record) will be set in Calgary at the world singles in March."
     Goluben competed today and finished tied for 21st spot.
     In the second round, skaters who started on the inside switch over to the outside lane. Times are combined, with the top three finishers capturing medals.
     Overland was by far the most impressive Canadian. Starting on the outside late in the second round, he vaulted into the overall lead with his Olympic record, only to be supplanted by Schimizu in the very next race. Ironically, Schimizu was paired against Patrick Bouchard.
     "Four parts of (Overland's) race looked pretty good for me," Auch said. "His start was pretty good, the first corner looked pretty good, the backstraight was a little bit tight but he had a great last corner and a very good last straightaway.
     "I think he can be a little bit better (Tuesday)."
     And Tremblay feels the same about Wotherspoon.
     "We know he can do faster than that," Tremblay said. "It's not his fastest race, that's for sure.
     "Jeremy had some problems in the last turn, probably a bit too nervous."
     But Tremblay remained cautious about Canada's chances for a medal.
     "It (the second round) could be a different day," he said. "Three of the top eight guys could switch.
     "We've seen that happen a lot this year."
     All four Canadians will skate in the second half of the second round. Wotherspoon will be the first up, paired against Japan's Manabu Horii in the 15th race. Horii is tied for 21st spot.
     Sylvain Bouchard is up against Italian Ermanno Ioriatti in the 17th race. Ioriatti opened today's competition by being the first skater to finish under the former Olympic record.
     Overland takes on South Korea's Yoon-Man Kim in the 19th race. Kim begins the second round in eighth place.
     And Patrick Bouchard faces the unenviable task of being paired with Shimizu again, this time in the final race of the competition.