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    Monday, November 24, 1997

    11-medal weekend a World Cup first for Canada

     CALGARY (CP) -- Catriona Le May Doan is the world's fastest woman on skates.
     Le May Doan, 26, of Saskatoon set a world record of 37.90 seconds for 500 metres Saturday and equalled it Sunday during a wild weekend of World Cup speed skating.
     "I'm going faster than I ever thought I'd go," she said after establishing herself as the sprinter to beat in women's long track speed skating at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
     Le May Doan also set a world record in the 1,000-metre race Saturday, 1:16.07, and American Chris Witty bettered it Sunday, 1:15.43.
     Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., also won two gold medals by sweeping both men's 500-metre finals.
     Canadians won 11 medals in all. The sprint schedule provides two sets of finals on race weekends.
     Clap skates being used by world-class sprinters, combined with the world's fastest ice at the national team oval, made for perfect conditions for smashing records. The new skates are hinged at the front of the boot only and enable athletes to go much faster because the blade stays on the ice longer as the heel lifts.
     "In June, I hated them," said Le May Doan. "I hoped they'd be banned by the International Skating Union.
     "Things are definitely clicking for me now. I'm glad they're not banned."
     How far as Le May Doan progressed in 5 1/2 years?
     In the 500 metres at the 1992 Olympics, she finished 14th.
     To gain the 500 record, she smashed the mark of 38.69 set in 1995 by now-retired American Bonny Blair, who won 1994 Olympic gold.
     "To go under 38 seconds in the 500 is particularly special," said Le May Doan. "No one had ever done that, not even come close.
     "It's a little mind-boggling."
     Susan Auch of Winnipeg, the 1994 Olympic silver medallist, also broke Blair's 500 record in finishing second Saturday. Auch was fifth in the Sunday 500, when Michelle Morton of Calgary was sixth.
     Le May Doan won the silver medal behind Witty in the Sunday 1,000. Auch was 11th. She'd been eighth in the Saturday 1,000.
     Wotherspoon, 21, continued his rapid ascent up the World Cup ladder by sweeping both 500-metre finals. He was timed in 35.50 Saturday and in 35.77 Sunday.
     "When I started the season, I really thought the 1,000 was my best event," said Wotherspoon. "It's nice to have the 500 but I know if I put a strong 1,000 together I can also beat anybody."
     Sylvain Bouchard of Loretteville, Que., was fourth in a personal-best 35.95 Sunday, when Patrick Bouchard of Cap-Rouge, Que., was sixth, Mike Ireland of Winnipeg seventh and Kevin Overland of Kitchener, Ont., eighth. Ireland and Overland tied for third in the Saturday 500.
     The biggest surprise Sunday was in the men's 1,000 when Lee Kyu-Hyuk of South Korea broke a one-day-old world record with a time of 1:10.42. Japan's Manabu Horii and Jan Bos of the Netherlands set a record of 1:10.63 Saturday when they finished in a dead heat for first place.
     Sylvain Bouchard and Wotherspoon tied for fourth Sunday at 1:10.69, Ireland was seventh, Patrick Bouchard eighth and Overland ninth. Overland won the bronze medal in the Saturday 1,000.
     The Olympic sprint trials begin here Dec. 27.
     Distance skaters, including world record-holder Neal Marshall of Coquitlam, B.C., begin their World Cup season this weekend in Berlin.