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    Saturday, January 24, 1998

    Knoll is The Regina Rocket

    By LESLIE WILSON -- For the Calgary Sun
      In Calgary, Mark Knoll is one of 13 speed skaters on the Olympic team.
     In his hometown of Regina, he's the one and only speed skater on the Olympic team.
     That means, next to Schmirler the curler, Knoll is big local news.
     On a recent trip home, after successfully cementing his spot at the Olympics, Knoll was overwhelmed by the attention.
     Looking to relax with friends and family, the 21-year-old first time Olympian spent much of his time signing autographs and doing interviews.
     Although he has achieved international success in the past, the two-time silver medallist at the World Junior Championships found out going to the Olympics is a whole new ball game.
     "I set up some interviews and then a few more people would show up," laughs the easy going skater. "I didn't know what to make of it. It was strange, bizarre. It was like a whole new experience for me, for sure."
     Used to training in the shadows of world record holders Catriona LeMay Doan and Jeremy Wotherspoon, Knoll wasn't quite prepared for the Regina limelight.
     "I thought the whole time being in the shadows of everyone else it would be cool being in the spotlight. But now I'm back to square one. I'd like to be in the shadows again."
     Knoll and his teammates are sure to be in the spotlight in Nagano. Canada's strongest ever speed skating team is on track to capture multiple medals.
     "It's pretty cool," says Knoll. "It's interesting because potentially we could bring home a lot of medals. It's really exciting. We have a talented bunch of people."
     While Knoll isn't in the running for a medal, he's aiming for top 16 in his event, the gruelling 5000 metres.
     "I'd be very happy with that, then I could race the 10K. But a top 12 would be personally very satisfying."
     The top 16 skaters in the 5000 metres are eligible to race the 10,000-metre event at the Games.
     Competing in the 5000 takes guts, a good set of lungs and strong legs.
     No longer considered a distance event, the 5000 is more of a long sprint. A sprint that every skater knows, is going to have a painful ending.
     "It's very taxing on the legs, but it's also a very rewarding race," explains Knoll.
     "It's more of a controlled sprint and no longer an easy race where you can just sit back and skate. You have to be attacking all the time. You have to calculate it very well, how you feel and what you can do on the day.
     In that regard, it's a very strategically challenging race."
     Knoll relies on his off-ice team, coach Ingrid Paul and massage therapist Patrick Anderson, a former national team speed skater, to provide support during the race. "I have a game plan when I go into a race and try to execute it.
     But it's comforting to have your coach there. Ingrid knows what to say on the sidelines. I also rely on Patrick to give me my lap times. He's a very positive force on the ice. I like to have him there all the time."
     Leading up to Olympic Trials, held at the Oval in December, Knoll thought he had a better chance of making the team in the 1500. But with a close to national record time of 6:44.84 in the 5000, he wound up as Canada's lone skater in the event. Steven Elm holds the record of 6:43.90. "I was really confident going into the race. It was maybe a bit of a surprise that I performed that well, but the timing all came together."
     Knoll hopes his timing is on when it counts, at the Olympic Games.